“The death sentence of Habib Chaab (…) at the head of the terrorist group Harakat al-Nidal, was carried out today this morning”, announced on Saturday May 6 the agency of the Iranian judicial authority Mizan Online. Executions are usually carried out in Iran by hanging at dawn.
The justice had confirmed the death sentence of Habib Chaab on March 12, a decision condemned by Sweden. “The death penalty is an inhuman punishment (…) and Sweden, like the rest of the EU, condemns its application in all circumstances,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom.
582 hangings in 2022
Iran is the country executing the most people after China, according to human rights organisations, which put the number of hangings at 582 in 2022.
Aged about fifty, Habib Chaab, also known as Habib Asyud, is presented as the leader of the Harakat al-Nidal group, or ASMLA (Arab Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz) by the authorities. Iranians, who call this movement “terrorist”. He had disappeared in October 2020 after going to Istanbul, before reappearing a month later in prison in Iran.
In December 2020, the Turkish authorities announced the arrest of 11 people suspected of having kidnapped him in Istanbul before taking him to Van, on the Iranian border, and handing him over to the authorities in Tehran.
Videos of confessions obtained under torture
Iranian television broadcast a video of Habib Chaab in November 2020, in which he accused himself in particular of a deadly attack which targeted a military parade in September 2018 in Ahvaz, capital of the province of Khuzestan (southwest) , and to work for the Saudi intelligence services. The dissemination of such videos is common in Iran and is condemned by human rights defenders, who accuse the authorities of obtaining them through torture.
The population of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan has a large Arab minority, which complains of being left behind by the authorities. Khuzestan had been one of the hotspots of a wave of protest at the end of 2019, which was violently repressed.
Last March, the justice sentenced to death six men accused of being part of the ASMLA, accusing them of having “following the orders of their European leaders, like (…) Habib Chaab”.
Other bi-nationals sentenced to death
After his arrest, Sweden had taken steps to offer him consular assistance but without result, because Iran does not recognize dual nationality. In January, Tehran provoked a wave of international indignation by executing the Iranian-British Alireza Akbari, convicted of espionage, and who had held several important positions in the Iranian security and defense apparatus.
In February, Germany expelled two diplomats stationed in Berlin to protest against the death sentence, confirmed in April, of the Iranian-German dissident Jamshid Sharmahd. He is accused of having participated in an attack against a mosque in Shiraz, in the south of Iran, which killed 14 people in April 2008.
At least 16 Western passport holders, including six French, are being held in Iran, most of them dual nationals.
Among them is Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish resident who was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016 and sentenced to death in 2017 for spying for Israel. He obtained Swedish citizenship while in detention. According to his family, he is still on death row.
Iranian-Swedish relations are also tense due to the case of Hamid Noury, a former Iranian prison official sentenced to life imprisonment in the first instance in Sweden for his role in the mass executions of prisoners ordered by Tehran in 1988. His trial sparks the anger of Tehran, which regularly denounces “political” prosecutions and “unfounded and fabricated accusations against Iran” in this case.