Two members of Iran’s Ahwazi minority were secretly executed this month after being “held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance since March 2014,” according to the human rights group Amnesty International.
The illegal executions, which violate international law, only came to light in recent days and were revealed amid reports that the Iranian regime is gearing up to execute another four Sunni prisoners who activists say were falsely imprisoned in 2009.
The secret executions have been taking place as the Iranian regime and its state media seek to downplay the soaring rate of executions in Iran, which have reached at least 320 in 2014, or more than two killings a day.
Opposition sources and human rights groups only learned of the execution after the families of those killed, Ali Chebieshat and Sayed Khaled Mousawi, were informed their children were dead, according to Amnesty.
Little information has been publicly provided by the Iranian regime, which is accused of breaking its own laws by carrying out the secret executions.
“The circumstances surrounding the executions remain shrouded in secrecy as the families have been told neither about the date nor the place at which the executions took place, in violation of Iranian law which requires lawyers and families to be notified of scheduled executions 48 hours in advance,” Amnesty reported in a recent statement. “The authorities have never even provided the men’s families and lawyer with the verdict sentencing the two men to death.”
Amnesty went on to accuse Iran of using these executions and secret murders as a way to intimidate political opponents and their families.
The four Sunni prisoners on death row originally were scheduled to be executed on Sunday. However, a stay was apparently issued after opposition groups raised the issue on social media and elsewhere.
Sources say that the four political opponents—amed Ahmadi, Jahangir Dehghani, Jamshid Dehghani and Kamal Molaee—could be executed at any moment once attention on the issue dies down.
They remain in solitary confinement after their families were summoned this weekend to the Rajae Shahr prison for one final visit, according to Amnesty and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group affiliated with the exiled MEK.
The four men are believed to have been falsely imprisoned for the murder of a regime-backed cleric who appears to have been killed several months after the men were imprisoned.
“The men deny the accusation, saying that they had been arrested between June and July 2009, several months before the sheikh’s killing in September 2009, and that they have been targeted solely because they practiced or promoted their faith, such as taking part in Sunni religious seminars and distributing Sunni reading materials,” according to Amnesty.
Iran’s Supreme Court, upheld the death sentences in September and a death order was drawn up.
“The authorities sentenced the four men to death after trials during which basic safeguards, such as rights of defense, were disregarded, in contravention of international fair trial standards,” Amnesty said in it’s statement, which called for the release of the four men.
The crackdown on Sunnis and other ethnic minorities additionally comes as Iran seeks to bolster Iraq’s Shiite-majority government in the fight against the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS), a Sunni-majority terror group that seeks to overthrow Iraq’s government and turn the country into a strict Islamic state.
The Iranian regime’s political opponents have come under increasing attack in recent weeks, as the rate of hangings and executions continues to climb.
Facing international pressure, Iran sought to defuse tensions by pardoningmore than 1,000 inmates last week. However, this has done little to dampen criticism.
The Obama administration has remained largely quiet about the human rights situation in Iran and has said that it is not seriously raising the issue during ongoing nuclear negotiations with Tehran.