UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd’s death sentence

Ramin Hossein Panahi, who was arrested last June for alleged membership in the Kurdish nationalist group Komala, has been sentenced to death in Iran. (Photo credit: Kurdistan Human Rights Network)
Updated 19 April 2018

UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd’s death sentence

  • Ramin Hossein Panahi was arrested last June for alleged membership in the Kurdish nationalist group Komala.
  • Three United Nations human rights experts warned that executing Panahi “would be unconscionable.”

Geneva: Three United Nations human rights experts called on Iran Thursday to annul a death sentence handed to an Iranian Kurdish prisoner, citing concerns he had been tortured in detention.
The experts warned that executing Ramin Hossein Panahi, who they said was arrested last June for alleged membership in the Kurdish nationalist group Komala, “would be unconscionable.”
In a joint statement, they said he had been “sentenced to death for taking up arms against the state” due to his alleged membership of the group.
Iran’s Supreme Court apparently reaffirmed the death sentence earlier this month, they said, adding that his case was due to be passed to the country’s Office of Implementation.
“We are deeply disturbed by reports that Mr. Panahi has suffered human rights violations before and during his trial, including incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment, and denial of access to a lawyer and adequate medical care,” they said.
They pointed to reports that he had been denied medical care for injuries suffered during his imprisonment, including from reported beating with cables.
He also reportedly started a hunger strike at the beginning of this year.
“The death sentence was imposed on Mr. Panahi after judicial proceedings which do not appear to have fulfilled the most stringent guarantees of fair trial and due process,” they said.
The experts, including the UN special rapporteur on torture and the expert on summary executions, stressed that “the only thing that distinguishes capital punishment from arbitrary execution is full respect for stringent due process guarantees.”
“We urge the government of Iran to annul the death sentence.”
The experts also raised concern that members of Panahi’s family appeared to have been convicted in “summary trials, and sentenced to long prison terms, in apparent reprisals for their efforts to obtain further information on his situation.”


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 34 min 16 sec ago

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.