Iran Condemns Political Prisoner to Death

Iran Condemns Political Prisoner to Death
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Arzhang Davoodi, teacher, poet, writer and political prisoner has been sentenced to death for his opposition to the Tehran regime and his life-long fight for freedom and democracy in Iran.

According to his lawyer, Vahid Moshkani Farahani, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Karaj headed by Judge Asef Al-Hosseini decided on July 9 to sentence Arzhang Davoodi to death. Mr. Davoodi is the Secretary General of Iranian Freedom Movement and co-founder of the Confederation of Iranian Students. He is also Honorary Chairman of the Interim Committee of the National Iranian Congress.

Mr. Davoodi, 62, has been imprisoned for the last 11 years. He was arrested in October 2003 and convicted in 2005 during a trial that found him guilty of "spreading propaganda against the system" (a common charge leveled against political prisoners), establishing and directing organizations opposed to the government such as the Confederation of Iranian Students and the Iranian Freedom Movement, presiding over Parto-e Hekmat Cultural Education Centre in Tehran, participating in the making of the documentary film Forbidden Iran, and publishing his writings on a secular system of governance in Iran. He was sentenced to 15 years and later in 2010 ten more years were added to his original sentence for fresh charges during a second trial.

In another court hearing on April 28, 2012, presided by Judge Abolghassem Salavati, known as the "Judge of Death" for his harsh sentencing of political prisoners, in Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, Mr. Davoodi's lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, was arrested while defending his client. In August of the same year, Amnesty International reported that the same judge convicted Davoodi of moharebeh or enmity against Allah which carries a possible death sentence. Finally, on the 15th anniversary of the July 9, 1999, student uprisings in Iran, Arzhang Davoodi was notified of his new sentence, the death penalty. Mr. Davoodi is currently being held in Banda-Abbas prison, 1500 kilometers south of his home in Tehran. He has served his sentence in some of the most notorious and remote prisons in Iran including Evin Prison and Rajaee Shahr prison.

With Arzhang Divoodi's July 9 death sentence, Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani are sending an unmistakable message to the Iranian freedom movement specifically and the Iranian people generally. To the freedom movement, issuing Mr. Davoodi's death sentence on the anniversary of the Iranian student uprising of 1999 and also during the nuclear negotiations with the United State signals not only that peaceful political dissent will not be tolerated by the Tehran regime, but also that to get a nuclear agreement with Tehran the presumed strongest international human rights advocate, the president of the United States, is willing to look the other way regarding the regime's egregious human rights abuses.

In short, Iranian political prisoners should expect no support from President Obama. And to the Iranian public, Mr. Davoodi's death sentence serves as an example of the extraordinary cruelty the regime will inflict to silence the Iranian people while they must endure the financial hardship for a costly nuclear program they have never supported. Ironically, the West's loosening of sanctions against the Islamic regime during the nuclear negotiations is substantially boosting the regime's revenue which it uses to subsidize the Revolutionary Guards Force, the Basijj, Hezbollah and other militant groups terrorizing Israel, thereby strengthening its tyranny at home and reinvigorating its nefarious activities abroad.

As an unprecedented number of executions is carried out by the Tehran regime, the Obama administration remains silent, apparently unwilling to risk the wrath of the Supreme Leader while sparing no effort to reach some kind of deal on Khamanei's nuclear program. If the U.S. government is to hold the Khamenei regime accountable for its human rights violations, the initiative must come from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

It is time for the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan legislation which provides no sanctions relief for Tehran until Arzhang Davoodi and his fellow political prisoners are released.

Amir Fakhravar is President of the Iranian Freedom Institute, Secretary General of the Confederation of Iranian Students, and a former political prisoner of the Islamic Republic. He is presently a Research Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at the Institute of World Politics. G. William Heiser is a former official in the Reagan National Security Council Staff and is an Advisor to the Iranian Freedom Institute and the Confederation of Iranian Students.

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