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Unfair trials and ill treatment of prisoners continue in Iran: Amnesty

LONDON, June 16 (AFP) - Iran continued to hold hundreds of political prisoners in 1998, many sentenced after unfair trials, the human rights group Amnesty International said Wednesday in its annual report.

"Reports of torture and ill treatment continued to be received," Amnesty said, adding that its information also suggested that "extrajudicial executions" had occurred.

It also said human rights abuses had been committed by armed opposition groups.

The report detailed a number of instances in which journalists were detained as a result of their work. Sayed Mohsen Saidzadeh was held for six months reportedly over an article he wrote about the role of women in Islam, while Mohammad Reza Zaeri was fined and forced to apologise for an article allegedly insulting Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Towards the end of the year several writers and intellectuals were found murdered. They included veteran politician Dariyush Foruhar and his wife Parvaneh, and Mohammad Mokhtari and Muhammad Ja'far Puyandeh, well known for their desire to establish an independent writers' association.

Amnesty said at least 20 members of the Bahai religious minority continued to be held, at least six of them under sentence of death. One Bahai was executed in Mashhad in July for converting a Moslem woman to the Bahai faith.

Several Moslem religious leaders were arrested in 1998 over their opposition to government policies. The report said at least three Grand Ayatollahs were believed to be under house arrest, and large numbers of their supporters were detained.

Amnesty also reported the arrest of scores of people following demonstrations in Tabriz, and others held without charge or trial for offences "such as espionage, propagating pan-Turkism, or counter-revolution."

The report said political prisoners continued to receive unfair trials.

"Detainees were reportedly denied access either to any legal counsel or to a lawyer of thier choice," it said.

"Trials before special courts, such as the Special Court for the Clergy, continued to fall far short of international standards," it added.

It cited as unfair the trial of Tehran mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi on charges of corruption, and the subsequent arrest of 16 Tehran district mayors, some of whom were sentenced to flogging.

"Torture and ill-treatment continued to be reported," Amnesty said. Methods including beatings and floggings, sleep deprivation, being forced to stand for long periods, exposure to loud noises, lack of food and threats to relatives

Several of the Tehran municipal officials said they had been tortured to "elicit confessions or to incriminate others," the report said.

Amnesty said Iran continued to apply "cruel, inhuman or degrading" punishments, including flogging and stoning to death.

It said the death penalty was widely used "often imposed for vaguely worded offences." Scores of executions were reported, it said, some carried out in public.

Amnesty said there had also been a number of possible "disappearances" and reports of deaths in mysterious circumstances, suggesting "extrajudicial executions."

The report said the government of President Mohammad Khatami had sought to distance itself from the death sentence pronounced on British author Salman Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, but that several senior religious figures and members of parliament continued to support it.

The People's Muhajadeen opposition group was also involved in violence. It set off bomb explosions and three locations in Tehran in June, killing "an unconfirmed" number of people, most of them civilians, the report said.


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