Amnesty says tortured Kurdish prisoner is ‘at risk of execution’ in Iran

Iranian Kurdish prisoner Arsalan Khodkam
Photo: Esta Graphic
Esta - Kurdistan Region

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Amnesty International said a tortured Kurdish man detained in a prison in Iran’s Urmia is “at risk of execution”, calling for urgent action for his release.

Amnesty said in a call for urgent action on Monday (August 3) that Arsalan Khodkam was arrested on April 23, 2018 and sentenced to death on July 14, 2018 for “spying” for the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) while working as a low-ranking officer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

“He consistently denied the charge and said that the authorities accused him of espionage after they learnt that he was in communication, via Instagram, with one of his wife’s relatives, who was a member of the KDPI,” Amnesty said.

“He was sentenced to death less than three months after his arrest in a grossly unfair trial that lasted 30 minutes and relied on ‘confessions’, which he said were made under torture and other ill-treatment.”

The human rights group said Khodkam had not been allowed access to a lawyer of his own choosing and that he was held in solitary confinement for 36 day without access to his family or a lawyer.

“The alleged torture included repeated episodes of flogging, punching and kicking, including on his back when were he had a surgical implant” at a Revolutionary Guards detention facility in Almahdi military barracks in Urmia.

Amnesty further said the use of death penalty for “espionage” violates international law, which restricts its use to “most serious crimes” involving intentional killing.

“I urge you to quash Arsalan Khodkam’s conviction and death sentence and grant him a fair trial, without recourse to the death penalty and excluding ‘confession’ obtained under torture and other ill-treatment,” it added.

Iranian authorities have a long-standing history of secretly executing members of ethnic minority groups, and refusing to reveal their fate and the whereabouts of their remains for years, according to Amnesty International.

On July 27, Hengaw Organization for Human Rights said Iran executed two Kurds in a prison in Urmia over the accusation of “deliberate murder”.

The organization, which reports on human rights in Iranian Kurdistan, said on July 23 that Iran had executed six Kurds in Kermanshah, Urmia and Naqadeh prisons in one week.

On April 21, Amnesty International said Iran was second only to China in its use of the death penalty. Iran put to death at least 251 people in 2019, according to Amnesty. Iran executed 253 people in 2018.