Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dutch-Iranian political prisoners in Iran

Dutch-Iranian activist Abdullah al-Mansouri has been in prison in Iran for five years. It is not known how he is or indeed where he is being held. Tensions between Iran and the Netherlands have most likely resulted in the worsening of his situation and the situations of other Dutch citizens who are political prisoners in Iran.

Dutch-Iranian human rights activist Sadegh Nageshkar also fears that the political struggle between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is bad news for political prisoners.
“The more the power struggle between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad intensifies, the more political prisoners – including al-Mansouri – come under pressure. This is designed to increase the Iranian people’s fears, so that they won’t fight for their rights and freedom.”

Following the execution of Dutch-Iranian woman Zahra Bahrami last January, the Dutch government came under fire for not having done enough for her. MPs are pushing the government to take Iran to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for not allowing Ms Bahrami Dutch consular support.
Mr al-Mansouri’s situation is looking even worse since the regime in Tehran recently started coming down hard on fellow activists from the predominantly Arabic Khuzestan region. Mr Nageshkar says five Arabs from Khuzestan were publically hanged last week.

Besides Mr al-Mansouri, another three Dutch-Iranians are thought to be political prisoners in Iran. The Tehran regime releases very little information about prisoners and the Dutch authorities also decline to give numbers, in order not to interfere with ongoing ‘quiet diplomacy’.
Mr Nageshkar names one of the Dutch prisoners as Saeed Shah Ghale and says he is serving a long sentence. The last of the few reports about Mr Ghale was from 2009. He is being held in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.

Another Dutch-Iranian prisoner is the Christian, Vahik Abrahamian. He was arrested on 4 September with his wife and ten others during a religious meeting in his house in Hamadan, 350 kilometres west of Tehran. He has not officially been charged but, on television, the group was accused of "attempts to destroy the Islamic state". Last week, it surfaced that his wife, Sonia Keshish Avanessian and two others were freed at the end of April. Kiri Kankhwende from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says one of the reasons Mr Abrahamian has not been released could be his Dutch nationality.
The Iranian authorities are reported to have attempted to obtain the equivalent of 135,000 euros each for the release of the three Dutch-Iranians. CSW contacts in Iran report that Mr Abrahamian may be being used in a further attempt to raise money, but this is by no means certain.
Questions about the fate of Mr Abrahamian have been raised in the Dutch parliament, but the government says it can do little for him at the moment.