U.N. experts decry Iran executions of Arab minority
GENEVA (Reuters) - Four members of Iran's Arab minority executed last week were sentenced to death in an opaque trial whose fairness was questionable, United Nations human rights experts said on Thursday, urging Tehran to halt all executions.
The four men, three of whom were brothers, were arrested last year during a protest by Arab Iranians, who have long-complained of economic deprivation and systematic discrimination by the authorities.
Convicted of "enmity against God" and of "corruption on earth", the men were executed last week in the southwestern city of Ahwaz - the capital of Khuzestan province that is home to a large population of ethnic Arabs.
"Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns remain about due process and fairness of trials in cases involving the death penalty in Iran," the experts said in a statement.
The executions were part of what activists describe as a crackdown by the authorities on Arab Iranians, also known as Ahwazis, who say they are discriminated against in employment, housing, and civil and political rights.
Over the past year, dozens of Ahwazis have been arrested and several political activists have been executed or died in detention, rights groups say.
"Under international law, the death penalty is the most extreme form of punishment, which, if it is used at all, should be imposed only for the most serious crimes", the experts said.
At least 140 executions are known to have been carried out in Iran since the beginning of 2012, with some sources indicating the figure may be as high as 220, the statement said.
The majority of these were for drug-related offences, which the experts said did not constitute the "most serious crimes" as stipulated under international law.
Britain's foreign office on Wednesday said it was "appalled" by the execution of the four Arab Iranians. "These men are the latest victims of the frequent and widespread persecution of ethnic minorities in Iran," it said.
(Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
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