Academics release open letter calling on Iran to release Kurdish political prisoner Panahi

by Meghan Bodette    


A coalition of academics issued an open letter calling on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and Chief Justice Sadegh Larijani to release Iranian Kurdish political prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi. Panahi has been on death row for several months, charged with being a member of an armed organization. Recently, his lawyers announced that they did not know if he was alive or dead. 

The text of the letter reads: 

"We, the signatories, are concerned about the death penalty against Ramin Hossein Panahi. It has already been announced that the death penalty against 24-year-old Ramin Hossein Panahi will be executed soon. Despite the international oppositions and actions, the Islamic Republic of Iran is decisive for the execution.

Amnesty International has started a signature campaign and the HDP (Democratic Party of the Peoples) in Turkey has cried out against the death penalty. The death penalty had to be removed and if not for now it has to be suspended, since Ramin Hossein Penahi is currently on hunger strike. His lawyer, Hossein Ehmedi Niyaz, says [that] "there is still a danger that he could be hanged at any time.”

Ramin Hossein Penahi was arrested on June 23, 2017. Panahi wanted to visit his family in the town of Sine during the day. There was a confrontation with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Sepah and 3 inmates were killed and Penahi injured. Penahi neither used weapons nor had any weapon in his hand.

Only after 4 months one could hear from him. During his imprisonment, he was systematically tortured. He was beaten up with cables, he was punched and kicked several times and  his head was hit against the wall. Medical treatment was denied.

On 16 January 2018, he was sentenced to the death penalty according to §182 of the Iranian Constitution, in a trial that lasted less than an hour. He was accused of armed resistance against the state and membership of the Kurdish organization Komala. According to the laws of Iran, punishment for Komala’s membership is 5 years, and if the arrested person is an armed militant, the punishment is 10 years. His family explained that the wounds of torture were still visible during the trial. They objected to the prison testimony because it was was recorded under torture. Their objection was rejected. His lawyer Niyaz highlights four points in his speech: First, Ramin’s statements were recorded under torture; secondly, he was not arrested with weapons; thirdly, Ramin did not kill anyone; and lastly, there is no prosecutor against Ramin. It is obvious that he is not guilty and the verdict is politically motivated against the Panahi family. Several members of this family are currently in prison. His nephew, NiÅŸtiman Hossein Panahi, hanged himself in prison after against his uncle the sentence was declared.

Penahi told his family that security forces are forcing him to stop the hunger strike so that he can be executed. He has been on hunger strike since 26 August and has sewn up his lips for it. Panahi declared in a video before his hunger strike: "I stood up for the freedom of the Kurdish people. I thank the Kurdish and Iranian people for their support so far. I am a civilian activist and not a terrorist. "

We demand the release of Panahi and all political prisoners and the abolition of the death penalty in Iran."

The signatories included academics from universities in the United States, Turkey, and several European countries.