Last updated: 27 April, 2012

Iran orders elderly opposition head to jail, says Human Rights Watch

Iran has ordered Ebrahim Yazdi, the elderly head of a banned opposition party and former foreign minister, to serve an eight-year jail term, a rights group said Friday, warning it could amount to a death sentence.

The 80-year-old activist, who was prominent in Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, has been ordered to surrender, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

“On April 16, 2012, Evin prison authorities informed Yazdi through his bail bondsman that he had 20 days to surrender to serve the sentence, imposed on December 11, 2011 by a revolutionary court in Tehran on national security charges,” HRW said.

“An eight-year prison term may easily amount to a sentence to die in prison, given Yazdi’s age and health,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

HRW said Yazdi was suffering from cancer and a heart condition.

The rights group called on Iran to quash Yazdi’s sentence and immediately free all members of his Freedom Movement party who are also serving prison terms.

Yazdi was convicted last December on charges of “attempting to act against national security,” his lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told AFP at the time, adding his client was also accused of “cooperating with the Freedom Movement of Iran party,” an outlawed but tolerated group which he once led.

Yazdi had argued the court did not have jurisdiction to handle his case, the lawyer said.