ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iran executed 22-year-old Kurdish activist Saman Naseem on Friday, ignoring international pleas to halt the sentence.
Saman’s family said they were notified by authorities the young activist had been hanged today, and ordered them not to hold a funeral.
Saman’s execution date was originally scheduled for Thursday. When it was not carried out, many believed that Iran had responded to growing pressure by human rights groups.
Saman had been in jail for the last three years on charges of being a member of a Kurdish political party, “enmity to God” and “corruption on earth,” activities that are considered counter-revolutionary under Iranian laws and punishable by death.
Saman was arrested when he was 17, and his family had been fighting for his freedom ever since.
As Iran prepared for his execution, the United Nations, European Union and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International urged Tehran to suspend the sentence.
Activists had been constantly demanding his freedom on social media.
For the past several month, Iranian authorities did not inform Saman’s family about where he was held, pending his execution.
“That the Iranian authorities are preparing to put to death a young man who’s been tortured for 97 days to ‘confess’ when he was 17 years old beggars belief,” the London–based watchdog’s deputy regional director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in a statement last week.
According to Amnesty, Saman was arrested in July 2011 following a gun battle between Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the outlawed Party For Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), in the city of Sardasht.
He was sentenced to death by a Revolutionary Court in January 2012, and his death sentence was confirmed for the second time by the Supreme Court in December 2013.
“After his arrest, he was held in a Ministry of Intelligence detention center without any access to his family or a lawyer,” AI wrote in a special report on his case.
In a letter published by AI, Saman said that Iranian prison officials had tortured him for 97 days when he was a teenager to force him to “confess” to a crime, before sentencing him to death.
In the letter last week Saman said he had been kept in a tiny cell and constantly tortured, until he was forced to put his fingerprints on confession papers, admitting that he had taken up arms against the state.
“This is the reality of the criminal justice system in Iran, which makes a mockery of its own statements that it does not execute children and upholds its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” he said in his letter.