Iranian-Dutch activist gets 11 years, not 30

24th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Reports that Iranian-Dutch activist Al Mansouri received 30 years in an Iranian jail cell were corrected by his lawyer.

THE HAGUE—It’s quite a difference, 11 versus 30 years behind bars. The lawyer of the Iranian-Dutch activist Abdullah al Mansouri was present at his court hearing in Iran, and he’s certain: Al Mansouri received an 11 year sentence.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Sunday that Al Mansouri was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment. Al Mansouri’s son Adnan, a Maastricht resident, and Amnesty International each reported he’d received thirty years. But Al Mansouri’s lawyer Dadkhah, a colleague of the human rights lawyer and Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, said he’d been sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment for “propaganda against the system.”

“Al Mansouri was sentenced based on testimony from his wife,” according to Dadkhah. He said that statements made by his wife after their escape to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) formed most of the evidence in the case. “This wasn’t a fair process since he isn’t responsible for what his wife claims.”

His son didn’t want to give a reaction. A spokesperson for Amnesty International speculated that Al Mansouri might receive a combination of prison time and house arrest, which could add up to 30 years. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated that the Iranian government had informed them that he’d received a 30 year sentence.

“It’s absolutely unclear to me why the court is so receptive to statements made by Al Manouri’s wife, who reportedly lives in Iraq,” said Dadkhah in an interview. “I have no further information of her activities.”

Al Mansouri’s son Adnan (35) stated on several occasions that his father would get the death penalty. He also said that the Dutch government would have to pay Iran 70,000 euros for a stay of execution.

The punishment for “propaganda against the government,” a general accusation in Iran for a range of offences, is less severe than for terrorism, which was the initial charge against Al Mansouri, according to his lawyer. Prisoners often serve a shorter jail time than originally sentenced in Iran.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Maxine Verhagen (Christian Democrat Appeal) worked hard to fight a death sentence for Al Mansouri. Various members of parliament held a vigil outside of the Iranian Embassy in The Hague. It is unclear what the influence of subtle diplomacy was on the sentence.

Al Mansouri is known in the Netherlands as a human rights activist with Royal honors, but in his homeland he’s seen as a traitor who gives leadership to a terrorist organization that’s responsible for dozens of casualties.

Al Mansouri’s movement the Ahvaz Liberation Organisation is an umbrella organisation of secular, pan Arabic splinter groups. One of them is the DRFLA, known for taking hostages at the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980. In 2005, 24 people were killed in attacks that were committed by groups with the same ideology as Al Mansouri’s ALO.

The television program NOVA showed films from the ALO website in which combatants fire rocket launchers and made bombs. The images have since been removed from the website.

When Al Mansouri left the Netherlands for Syria, Iran’s most important ally, for reasons uncertain in 2006, he was arrested and handed over to Iran.

Many Sunni Arabs live in the province of Khuzestan, a different ethnic group than Shiite Persians. As with many borderland areas, the jobless rate is higher there than in the rest of the country. Additionally, children receive only a few hours of schooling each day in Arabic.

“People are angry about how the State distributes money in Khuzestan. Iran’s oil income comes from here, but it isn’t spent here. The region keeps getting poorer, which leads to many social problems even, in some cases, to extremism,” explained Masour Qanavati, Editor in Chief of Karoon, the biggest newspaper in Khuzestan.

Only a small percentage of residents support the extremist ideology of the former dissident Al Mansroui, according to Qanavati, whose newspaper is very critical of the Iranian government. “Mansouri’s organization is responsible for different bombings in its own province that cost many people their lives,” Qanavati said. “People don’t want that.”

NRC Handelsblad/Lila Lundquist/Expatica

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