01/11/2007, 00.00
IRAN
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After a farce trial, Tehran plans to hang seven Arabs

The charge is made by UN human rights investigators. Seven men are from Khuzestan province, scene of unremitting anti-government protest. Last week a million people wrote President Ahmadinejad complaining about high levels of unemployment.

Geneva (AsiaNews) – Iran is planning to execute seven Arabs sentenced to death after a secret summary trial, this according to three United Nations human rights investigators.

The families of the seven men from Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province (south-west Iran), were told earlier this week that the executions would occur “in the next few days”. Seething with resentment over high levels of unemployment, Khuzestan is home of anti-government movement.

The UN officials said the seven were part of a larger group of Arabs arrested in June 2006 in the province on charges including intent to destabilise Iran and overthrow its government. Three were executed last month.

The suspects were also accused of training in Iraq by US, British and Israeli officials, said Philip Alston, the UN Human Rights Council's expert on summary executions, and fellow investigators Leandro Despouy and Manfred Nowak.

Contacted by the Associated Press an official at Iran's mission to the UN in Geneva said he could not immediately comment.

It was unclear whether the condemned Arabs were arrested in connection with two bombings that killed at least nine people in Ahvaz last year.

But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed “the occupiers of Iraq” for supporting the bombers.

The investigators conceded that those awaiting execution were accused of serious crimes but said such suspicions “cannot justify their conviction and execution after trials that made a mockery of due process requirements.”

The human rights experts said lawyers were not allowed to see the defendants before the trial and faced charges of “threatening national security” when attempting to defend their clients.

Reportedly, convictions were based on confessions extorted under torture, they said.

Arabs represent less than three per cent of Iran’s population but most live in oil-rich but economically depressed Khuzestan province.

The area is well-known for its anti-government sentiments. Since 2005 it has seen unremitting demonstrations against the mullahs’ regime.

Last week-end, about a million people in Khuzestan, wrote letters to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to complain about high unemployment, Kuwaiti daily al-Qabas reported on Tuesday.

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