Iran halts execution of Kurdish student: lawyer



TEHRAN, Hiedeh Farmani- Iran has halted the execution of Kurdish student Habibolah Latifi, who was due to be hanged on Sunday for backing a separatist rebel group, his lawyer told the ISNA news agency.
"The verdict has been halted for the moment," lawyer Nemat Ahmadi told the agency. "The sentence has not been carried out and he has met with his family this morning."



A court in the western city of Sanandaj, Kordestan province, had notified Latifi's other lawyer that he would be hanged Sunday morning, Ahmadi said.
Latifi, a law student, has been convicted of waging war against God (moharebeh) for supporting PJAK, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, a banned Iranian-Kurdish rebel group.
In a letter to the judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani on Saturday, Ahmadi said he had requested "a delay in carrying out the verdict, a fair and lawful investigation and commuting of the sentence."
The announcement came as rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on Iranian authorities not to go ahead with Latifi's execution.
Latifi was originally sentenced to death in 2008 for taking part in armed acts in the western province of Kordestan, according to his other lawyer Saleh Nikbakht -- a ruling upheld on appeal in February 2009.
He was detained in November 2007 and charged with taking part in an assault on the car of the prosecutor in Sanandaj, the capital of Kordestan, and attacking a police station the same year.
According to Nikbakht, Latifi had admitted being a PJAK supporter but denied committing acts of violence. The student told the court he was not in Sanandaj when the attacks took place.
London-based Amnesty on Saturday urged Iran to commute the sentence, after hearing from his lawyer that he was to be executed Sunday at Sanandaj prison in Kordestan.
"While we recognise that governments have a responsibility to bring to justice those who commit crimes, this must be done according to international standards for fair trial," said Amnesty's Malcolm Smart.
"It is clear that Habibolah Latifi did not receive a fair trial by international standards, which makes the news of his impending execution all the more abhorrent," said Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a similar statement on Friday, calling on Iran's judges to rescind the execution order and suggesting that Latifi had not had a fair trial.
"The circumstances surrounding Latifi's arrest, detention, and conviction strongly suggest that the Iranian authorities have violated his fundamental rights," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
"As in numerous previous security cases, intelligence agents appear to have subjected Latifi to torture and a court sentenced him to death without any convincing evidence against him."
In Paris, a group of between 20 and 30 demonstrators picketed the Iranian embassy in the early hours of Sunday, with some protesters chaining themselves to the railings outside, organisers and police said.
Officers eventually moved in to cut the chains of the protesters and break up what they said was an unauthorised demonstration, said a police spokesman.
Hundreds of militants from the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody campaign for self-rule in southeast Turkey, and its sister group in Iran, PJAK, are based in the mountains of northern Iraq.
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Sunday, December 26th 2010
Hiedeh Farmani
           


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