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2007 Tuesday 31 July
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran's judiciary on Tuesday for the first time confirmed that two Iranian Kurdish journalists have been sentenced to death for being "enemies of God."
Rights groups had reported that Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed "Hiva" Botimar were sentenced to death on July 16 by a revolutionary court in Marivan, in Iran's northeastern Kordestan province.
"Botimar and Hassanpour have been sentenced to hanging on the charge of being mohareb," judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters, using a Koranic legal term that is usually translated as "enemy of God."
He added he was unable to confirm whether the sentence had been validated by the supreme court. Jamshidi did not give further details on their crimes.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the two journalists wrote for the magazine Aso (Horizons), before it was banned in August 2005.
Hassanpour published several articles on local politics and gave interviews to foreign media including Voice of America while Botimar was also a member of the environmental NGO Sabzchia, RSF said.
It said that at Hassanpour's closed door trial, he was found guilty of "activities subverting national security" and "spying," while his interviews for Voice of America were also cited by the prosecution.
It said it had no further details on Botimar's trial.
Kurds are believed to form a minority of around several million people in Iran, most of whom live in the northwestern West Azarbaijan and Kordestan provinces on the border with Turkey and Iraq.
The border area is hugely sensitive, with Iranian security forces for the past years fighting banned Kurdish separatist parties, in particular Pejak, a group linked to Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Official statements often speak of heavy militant losses as well as deaths on the side of the security forces. Iran has also repeatedly accused the United States of seeking to stir up ethnic trouble in the area.
Iran is bound by treaty with Turkey to fight the PKK. In return, Turkey has pledged to fight Iran's main armed opposition group, the Iraq-based People's Mujahedeen.
Turkey has praised Iran's efforts to crack down on Kurdish rebels linked to the PKK, who have been waging a deadly armed struggle for self-rule in the southeast of Turkey since 1984.
An execution of a journalist is extremely unusual in Iran.
Intellectual Hashem Aghajari, who also wrote for Iranian newspapers, was sentenced to death for blasphemy after saying in a speech in 2002 that Muslims were not "monkeys" and "should not blindly follow" religious leaders.
However the verdict was commuted to five years in jail in 2004, and he was finally cleared of the charges in March 2005.
UN Human Rights Council legal experts earlier this year expressed concern about Iran's use of "mohareb" charges, saying they were usually levelled against persons accused of espionage as well as political dissidents.
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