Unless a miracle occurs around about 2 a.m. UK time tomorrow morning, 22 year old Saman Naseem will be hanged.
The usual Iranian method of hanging is unusually cruel and gruesome. The condemned prisoner is simply suspended from a rope by his neck. There is no drop; no attempt to break his neck. He is slowly strangled to death as he kicks and struggles. Death takes minutes. Sometimes the executions are public, though more commonly they take place inside a prison.
Saman Naseem’s crime was to be a member of the PJAK, a secular Kurdish organisation with links to its better known Turkish equivalent the PKK.
He was arrested when he was just 17 following a gun battle between the PJAK and Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Charged with “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” he was originally sentenced to death in January 2012.
He appealed against his sentence and the Supreme Court ordered a retrial. That took place in April 2013 and the original death sentence was reinstated.
Naseem says that he was tortured in order to make him confess.
He says that as recently as last weekend he was tortured in an attempt to make him confess on video, but he refused to do so.
Whether or not the torture claims are true it is indisputable that hanging Saman Naseem will put Iran in breach of Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a Convention to which it is a signatory.
“Neither capital punishment nor imprisonment without the possibility of relese shall be imposed for offences committed by persons under the age of eighteen years.”
It is unlikely that the Iranian government will pay much attention to the international campaign to stop the hanging. It is inconceivable that they will listen to the British government.
There is, however, one person in Britain who just might wield some influence with the Iranian authorities.
George Galloway MP is a regular presenter on the Iranian television station Press TV, where he styles himself “The Voice of the Voiceless.” The station has no more effective or high profile presenter. A public, or even a private, request from Mr Galloway could yet persuade the Iranians to stop this horrific execution.
I have contacted Mr Galloway, and he has said this:
“I absolutely condemn this and all executions in Iran and elsewhere. The circumstances in this case would make this execution even more repugnant.”
We can only hope that the Iranians listen to him.
There is a precedent for them listening to protests from western contributors to Press TV. In 2006 an Iranian woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. A group of former Press TV journalists, including Andrew Gilligan and Mark Watts (now better known as a founding member of Exaro News) made a public appeal for the death sentence to be commuted. The Iranians listened. Ashtiani was reprieved, her death sentence was eventually commuted and she was released from prison last March.
We can only hope that somehow Saman Naseem’s life can yet be saved.