Thursday, 10 June 2010

AFP : Iran still holding hundreds from poll protests: Amnesty

LONDON — Human rights group Amnesty International called on Iran on Wednesday to release or try on genuinely criminal charges hundreds of detainees still being held one year after a disputed presidential election sparked a wave of mass protests.

The London-based watchdog accused the Iranian authorities of unleashing a "campaign of fear" to crush popular opposition to the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a vote his main challengers reject as "fraudulent".

"The Iranian government is determined to silence all dissenting voices, while at the same time trying to avoid all scrutiny by the international community into the violations connected to the post-election unrest," Amnesty's interim secretary general, Claudio Cordone, said.

"The government has taken the absurd stand that virtually no violations have occurred in Iran," he said.

"What we are calling for is very simple -- the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience and for others to be tried promptly on recognisably criminal offences, without recourse to the death penalty, in proceedings which fully meet international standards for a fair trial."

Amnesty said that hundreds of people remained in custody for their part in the protests of June 2009 or for otherwise expressing dissenting views.

It said that the imprisonment of ordinary citizens had become an everyday phenomenon in an expanding revolving door system of arbitrary arrest and detention.

"The Iranian authorities must end this campaign of fear that aims to crush even the slightest opposition to the government," Cordone said.

"They are continuing to use the death penalty as a tool of repression, right up to the eve of the anniversary of the election.

"The Iranian authorities blame everyone but themselves for the unrest but they are failing to show any respect for their own laws which prohibit the torture and other ill-treatment of all detainees," he added.

Iran has one of the highest execution rates in the world. Amnesty said it had already recorded more than 115 this year.

Murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery are all punishable by death in Iran.

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