Torture victims detail suffering at hands of Iranian election candidate

Torture victims detail suffering at hands of Iranian election candidate
Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi attends an election debate at a television studio, in Tehran, Iran June 8, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 June 2021

Torture victims detail suffering at hands of Iranian election candidate

Torture victims detail suffering at hands of Iranian election candidate
  • Ebrahim Raisi, head of judiciary, accused of ordering mass executions of political prisoners
  • UN, US, EU urged not to recognize ‘sham’ election

LONDON: As Iran prepares for presidential elections on June 18, citizens have spoken out about the torture and abuse they received at the hands of candidate Ebrahim Raisi, current head of the judiciary.

He is accused of having been central to the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners. It is alleged that he was a member of the so-called “Death Commission” in Evin and Gohardasht prisons.

According to first-hand reports, Raisi was a prosecutor sentencing people to death. He was just 21 during the 1988 executions, with limited education and training.

Iranian opposition members have said Raisi served as then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s “fixer,” being sent to conduct purges in provinces such as Lorestan, Kermanshah and Semnan.

Now, members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) have detailed abuses they suffered at Raisi’s hands.

At a press conference on Tuesday attended by Arab News, Farideh Goudarzi detailed horrific abuses she endured throughout the 1980s.

“In 1983 I was arrested on charges of supporting the Mojahedin Organization, and for nearly six years in the prisons of Hamedan and Nahavand I witnessed the heinous crimes of the criminal Ebrahim Raisi,” she said.

Goudarzi was heavily pregnant at the time of her arrest, and she gave birth very soon after she began her time in captivity.

She detailed abuses at the hands of her captors, including Raisi, who she said watched on as she was tortured by being flogged with electric cables in a tiny, blood-splattered room.

She said there is “a painful memory that’s still lingering before my eyes every moment even after 38 years,” referring to the use of her child as a torture tool on Sept. 24, 1983. 

Goudarzi said Raisi and some guards “entered my cell, picked up my son — who was only a 38-day-old baby — while he was asleep and threw him on the ground in a cruel and ruthless manner. Ignoring his cries, they took off his clothes as they said they were looking for documents and evidence. 

“The next day, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., I was taken to court with my son and interrogated. More than 10 ruthless torturers were present in the interrogation room, one of whom was Raisi,” she added. 

“During the six hours of interrogation, one of them took my son by the hand and … he slapped him on the back in front of me and the others laughed. Raisi was watching this scene. I expressed this bitter memory to say that we, the survivors of the 1988 massacre, will neither forget nor forgive this crime and the other crimes in the 1980s.”

Nasrallah Marandi, a prisoner in Evin, Ghezel Hesar and Gohardasht prisons from 1981 to 1991, told the press conference that on Aug. 6, 1988, guards transferred him from solitary confinement to the main corridor of Gohardasht Prison, called “the corridor of death.” 

He added: “When I was taken to the corridor of death, both sides of the corridor were full of prisoners who were waiting to be taken to the Death Commission … Many of them were my friends, and it was around noon when I was taken to the Death Commission.”

He said Raisi was there, adding that he “played an active role in the execution of prisoners and he was endorsing the death certificate. After a few minutes I was returned to the corridor of death, and on the same day many of my friends were executed by Raisi and other members of the Death Commission.”

Marandi said: “After signing the death sentence, Raisi went to the execution hall to carry out and supervise the executions.” 

He added that the Death Commission did not spare the mentally or physically ill, and that prisoners were killed regardless of age. 

“They executed everyone, and in the fall of 1988 only one small ward in Gohardasht Prison, called Ward 13, made up all the political prisoners who had survived the massacre,” Marandi said.

Mahmoud Royaei detailed the suffering experienced by Kaveh Nasari, who suffered from severe epilepsy and was paralyzed following severe torture.

He said Nasari “was attacked due to epilepsy. They used to hit his head and face hard on the ground, due to which his face was always injured. On Aug. 9, 1988, Nasari was taken to the death corridor. He had an epileptic fit but Raisi still sentenced him to death. On the same day, despite serving his sentence in full, Nasari was executed.” 

Royaei added: “I have no doubt that Kaveh would’ve survived if Raisi … wasn’t present on that death panel.”

Royaei said: “Many of the prisoners were students at the time of their arrest. Some were just 15 or 16. After seven years of brutal torture, they were hanged after Raisi signed their death verdict.”

Marandi urged the US, UN and EU to condemn Raisi’s candidacy, saying the “sham” election should not be recognized. 

Ali Safavi, an official with the foreign affairs committee of the Paris-based NCRI, told Arab News: “The expected presidency of a mass murderer like Raisi lays bare the real and evil nature of medieval theocracy ruling Iran.”

He added: “For more than four decades, Western powers cloaked appeasing the mullahs under the veneer of empowering the illusory moderates, to the detriment of the Iranian people and regional peace and stability. 

“This is no longer justifiable. The time has come for the international community to uphold the values they claim to champion, denounce the sham election and hold the Iranian regime and its criminal leaders, like Raisi, accountable for numerous crimes against humanity.”


Bahrain crown prince discusses Middle East security with UK PM Johnson

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. (BNA)
Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. (BNA)
Updated 18 June 2021

Bahrain crown prince discusses Middle East security with UK PM Johnson

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad meets UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. (BNA)
  • The two leaders discussed the global effort against COVID-19 and deepening cooperation on green technology
  • Prince Salman also met with Prince Charles, conveying greetings from King Hamad to Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON: Bahrain and the UK vowed to boost economic and security cooperation as Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad held talks with the British prime minister on Thursday.
Prince Salman said relations with the UK continued to evolve toward more advanced and solid partnerships in various fields, based on their close history spanning decades, Bahrain News Agency reported.
“The bilateral partnership between the two countries are based on opening wider horizons for the development of solid relations at all levels, in a manner that reflects the aspirations of the two countries,” Prince Hamad said during his meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street.
He praised Britain’s strategic and vital role in maintaining security and stability in the region, and developing cooperation in areas such as military, economic and trade.
“They reflected on the close and historic partnership between the UK and Bahrain and agreed to further strengthen our economic, security and diplomatic cooperation,” Downing Street said in a statement, adding the two leaders discussed the global effort against COVID-19, support for international initiatives to combat the pandemic, including COVAX, and deepening cooperation on green technology and the transition to renewable energy.
“They also spoke about regional security issues and defense collaboration, and the prime minister commended the Bahraini government’s steps to normalize relations with Israel,” the statement added.
Prince Salman also met with Prince Charles, conveying greetings from King Hamad to Queen Elizabeth II.


Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains

Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains
Updated 17 June 2021

Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains

Iran says nuclear talks closer to deal, Russia says time-consuming work remains

DUBAI: Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have come closer than ever to an agreement, but essential issues remain to be negotiated, the top Iranian negotiator said on Thursday.
The Islamic Republic and six world powers have been negotiating in Vienna since April to work out steps for both sides to take. The United States withdrew in 2018 from the pact, under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of many foreign sanctions against it.
“We achieved good, tangible progress on the different issues .... we are closer than ever to an agreement but there are still essential issues under negotiations,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as telling Al Jazeera television.
Araqchi said Iran’s presidential election on Friday would have no effect on the negotiations and the Iranian negotiating team will continue the talks regardless of domestic policy.
The sixth round of talks resumed on Saturday with the remaining parties to the deal — Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union — meeting in the basement of a luxury hotel.
The US delegation to the talks is based in a hotel across the street as Iran refuses face-to-face meetings.
Since former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran has embarked on counter-measures, including rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, a potential pathway to nuclear bombs.
“We want to make sure that what happened when Trump pulled out of the deal will not be repeated by any other American president in the future,” Araqchi told the pan-Arab satellite TV network.
Russia’s envoy to the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, added a note of caution, saying progress had been made in the last few days but talks were tough.
“Some difficult and time-consuming topics still remain unresolved,” he said.
France’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday there were still significant disagreements.
Iran’s new president is expected to name his Cabinet by mid-August. Current President Hassan Rouhani’s term ends on Aug. 3, a government spokesman said.


Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August

Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August
Updated 17 June 2021

Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August

Kuwait to allow vaccinated foreigners entry from August
  • The Gulf country in February banned entry of non-citizens to limit the spread of the virus
  • Foreign travellers will need to have been fully inoculated with one of Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson

KUWAIT: Kuwait announced Thursday it would allow foreigners who have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to enter the country from August 1, after a months-long suspension.
The Gulf country in February banned the entry of non-citizens in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, but has started to ease some of its Covid-19 restrictions in recent weeks.
Government spokesman Tareq Al-Mizrem said foreign travelers will need to have been fully inoculated with one of the four vaccines that the Gulf country has approved — Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Passengers must also hold a negative PCR test conducted a maximum of 72 hours before travel, and undergo another test during a seven-day quarantine in the country, Mizrem told a press conference.
Meanwhile, only Kuwaiti citizens who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to travel abroad from August 1, he said, although some exceptions would be made, such as for pregnant women.
Previously, Kuwaitis were required to have had at least one jab in order to travel.
Mizrem also announced that Kuwait would allow access to large shopping malls, gyms and restaurants from June 27 only for those who have been fully inoculated.
“The government has decided to allow those who have received a (full) Covid-19 vaccine... to enter restaurants and cafes, gyms, salons, shopping malls more than 6,000 square meters,” said Mizrem.
Kuwait has officially recorded more than 332,000 coronavirus cases, over 1,800 of them fatal.


US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking holds talks with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi capital, Riyadh. (Saba)
US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking holds talks with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi capital, Riyadh. (Saba)
Updated 18 June 2021

US blames Houthis for failed Yemen peace efforts

US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking holds talks with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi capital, Riyadh. (Saba)
  • Envoy Tim Lenderking condemns Houthis for civilian attacks, tells Yemen’s foreign minister that his government has Washington’s support
  • Saudi ambassador to Yemen held talks with UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths

RIYADH: The US envoy to Yemen has blamed the Houthi militia for failed efforts to bring peace to the country.
Tim Lenderking made the comments during a meeting on Thursday with Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak in Saudi Arabia, Saba news agency reported.
Lenderking is holding talks in the Kingdom as part of a US push to bring a nationwide cease-fire.
But the Biden administration appears increasingly frustrated by the Iran-backed Houthis and their refusal to engage with peace efforts.
During his meeting with Bin Mubarak, Lenderking repeated Washington’s position that there is no military solution to the Yemen conflict.
He strongly condemned the continued Houthi attacks on civilians and said an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire was a basic necessity to alleviate human suffering.
He said the US continued to support the legitimate government and the unity, stability and security of Yemen.
Bin Mubarak said: “The Houthi militia’s refusal to agree a comprehensive cease-fire, reopen Sanaa airport, and guarantee the supply of oil derivatives revenues to pay employees’ salaries proves the false pretexts these militias claim and confirms their bargaining on the humanitarian side, in order to continue implementing Iran’s subversive agenda.”
He said the militia’s targeting of civilians and populated areas in Marib with ballistic missiles has not stopped, but rather increased in severity, which exacerbates the seriousness of the humanitarian situation, increases the number of civilian casualties and undermines international efforts to establish peace.”


Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death
Updated 17 June 2021

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death

Houthis denounced for sentencing two activists to death
  • Yemeni minister Ahmed Arman: Houthis are using the judicial bodies in areas under their control to “settle scores” with their opponents and to confiscate their property
  • Yemeni rights groups voiced concerns about the Houthis’ escalating crackdown on dissidents at a time when mediators are pressing them to agree to a peace initiative

ALEXANDRIA: Yemeni government officials, human rights activists and journalists have condemned a Houthi-run court’s decision to sentence two Yemeni activists to death, accusing the rebels of using the judiciary in areas under their control to punish dissidents.

On Tuesday, a Houthi-run court ordered that Zafaran Zaid, a Yemeni human rights activist and lawyer, and her husband and fellow activist Fuad Al-Mansouri be executed by firing squad. The two were tried in absentia. 

Zaid, head of the Yemeni Women’s Empowerment Foundation (Tamkeen), has exposed a number of human rights abuses by the Houthis. Al-Mansouri is the head of the Development Media Association and an outspoken critic of the Houthis. His brother, the journalist Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, was abducted by the Houthis in 2015 and sentenced to death in 2020. 

The court found the couple guilty of smuggling Buthaina Mohammed Al-Raimia — the Yemeni child injured in an errant airstrike by the Arab coalition in 2017 — to Riyadh. 

The child was sent to Riyadh by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, where she received life-saving medical treatment. Once she was fully recovered, she was returned to her family in northern Yemen.

Ahmed Arman, Yemen’s minister of legal affairs and human rights, told Arab News on Thursday that the Houthis are using the judicial bodies in areas under their control to “settle scores” with their opponents and to confiscate their property. 

“The ministry renews its strong condemnation and denunciation of all immoral and inhumane practices used by the Houthis against citizens in areas under their control and calls on the international and regional community to provide support to the Yemeni government and help it restore its authority over all Yemeni territories,” Arman said.

He added that Houthi-controlled courts have issued similar death sentences against hundreds of Yemeni activists, military and security officials, politicians and journalists for challenging their rule and backing the Yemeni government and Arab coalition. 

“The Houthis continue to use so-called judicial authority in areas under their control to seek vengeance on Yemenis,” Arman said.

Yemeni activists and rights groups echoed Arman’s concerns about the Houthis’ escalating crackdown on dissidents at a time when regional and international mediators are pressuring the rebels to agree to a peace initiative brokered by the UN to end the war. 

“The Houthis have become violent and oppressive towards Yemeni women — employing all methods of intimidation against them. What is happening is a flagrant violation of human rights,” Noora Al-Jarwi, a Yemeni activist, said.

The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties demanded the Houthis put an end to their “farcical” death-sentence rulings. 

“SAM emphasizes that such rulings seriously violate a set of basic rights guaranteed by both Yemeni and international law,” the organization tweeted.