May 17, 2009

Iran: Ensure free presidential election

15 May 2009
Amnesty International has today called on the Iranian authorities to ensure that the forthcoming presidential election to be held on 12 June 2009 are free of discrimination – particularly against women - and that candidates and voters are guaranteed effective exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly during the election campaign. The organization’s appeal was made in a letter addressed to Ayatollah Jannati, the Chair of the Council of Guardians1, following the recent closure of registration of candidates for the presidential election.

The Council of Guardians screens all candidates for election to “ensure their suitability for the Presidency”. Article 115 of the Constitution stipulates that candidates must be from amongst “religious and political personalities” [Persian: rejal] and possess: “Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrative capacity and resourcefulness; a good past record; trustworthiness and piety; convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country.” In previous elections, the majority of candidates registered were disqualified under these criteria, including all women. The exclusion of women appears to have been on an interpretation of the word rejal as meaning “men”...

Recent cases of concern to Amnesty International include:

Ayatollah Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, who advocates the removal of religion from the political basis of the state, is serving an 11-year prison sentence imposed on 13 August 2007 after his initial death sentence for “enmity against God” was commuted. On 5 May 2009 he was allegedly beaten while held in solitary confinement in Yazd prison, where he is held in internal exile, after he sent an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, requesting that international observers be sent to Iran in order to assist the Iranian people in an open referendum on the system of government in Iran. Since then he has not been allowed to contact family members, who have said that prison officials told them he was being punished for his statement concerning the referendum.

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