Azerbaijan, Baku, August 21 / Trend
Iranian officials should immediately and unconditionally release five Azeri ethnic minority rights activists, a recent report on the Human Rights Watch website said.
According to the report, five people have been sentenced to heavy prison terms solely for their membership in a party that peacefully works for the civil and cultural rights of the country's Azeri ethnic minority.
An appeals court recently affirmed nine-year prison sentences for each of the five men, the report said.
Members of the party told Human Rights Watch that the five people were convicted in a closed two-day trial for "founding an illegal group" and "propaganda against the state" in connection with their membership in Yeni GAMOH, an Azeri party.
Yeni GAMOH, which stands for "New Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement" in the Azeri language, has for more than a decade promoted Azeri cultural and linguistic identity, along with secularism and the right to self-determination for the Azeris of Iran, members said.
With an estimated population of at least 15 million, mostly concentrated in Iran's northwest regions, Azeris constitute the country's largest ethnic minority.
On June 16, 2013, an appeals court in the northwestern city of Tabriz upheld the nine-year prison sentences for Mahmoud Fazli, Ayat Mehrali Beyglou, Shahram Radmehr, Latif Hassani, and Behboud Gholizadeh on national security-related charges. The ruling came less than two months after they were convicted by Branch 3 of the Tabriz Revolutionary Court.
The five men are currently in Rajai Shahr Prison, in the city of Karaj, 47 kilometers west of Tehran, the capital, according to the report.
Before, authorities had arrested the men in 2010 in connection with their membership in the group, and revolutionary courts had sentenced them to various prison terms, ranging from six to 18 months, the report said.
On August 1 Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to Hassan Rouhani, then the president-elect, urging him to implement policies "ensuring equal protection of law for all Iranians, irrespective of ethnicity and faith."
Follow us on Twitter @TRENDNewsAgency