November 15, 2008

Rights group criticises Iran over prisoners of conscience

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Rights group criticises Iran over prisoners of conscience
(AFP)

23 September 2008

TEHRAN - An Iranian rights group on Tuesday criticised the Islamic republic's treatment of prisoners of conscience and called for an end to the execution of offenders who committed capital crimes as minors.
Releasing its annual report, the Association for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights said it could not provide the exact number of such prisoners in Iran.
"The authorities do not recognise the existence of political prisoners, while students and political activists are arrested only for criticising the current situation," group member Mohammad Javad Mozafar told a news conference.
"We do not think these people should be imprisoned just for expressing their opinion," he said.
Mozafar criticised discrimination against prisoners of conscience, saying that in some cases they are "denied permission to go on leave while people convicted of drug trafficking easily obtain that and sometimes abscond."
He said detained students, activists and women's rights campaigners did not have access to lawyers during interrogation and faced having to pay bail that in some cases amounted to hundreds of thousand dollars.
"The authorities refuse to cooperate with our association and do not allow us to visit prisons," lawyer Farideh Gheyrat said.
In its annual report the rights group called on the Iranian "judiciary and the parliament to adopt legislation to prevent the execution of youth who commit crimes while they are under 18."
The association is headed by award-winning dissident journalist and anti-death penalty campaigner Emadeddin Baghi, who has been in jail since October 2007.
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