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Brother: Iranian Kurdish Dissident Has ‘Hours’ Before Execution

Ramin Hossein Panahi faces execution in Sanandaj, Iran.

A brother of an Iranian Kurdish man sentenced to death for belonging to a Kurdish nationalist group says the dissident has told a lawyer that he has hours to live after being transferred back to death row.

Speaking exclusively to VOA Persian on Thursday, Amjad Hossein Panahi said his detained brother Ramin Hossein Panahi was moved to death row at a prison in the northwestern city of Sanandaj in the past day. Amjad Panahi, who is based in Germany, said Ramin met with defense lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz on Thursday and told the lawyer that he expected to be executed within hours. Amjad Panahi said he learned of the meeting from Ahmadiniaz who, he said, described it as the final one with Ramin.

Amjad Panahi said prison authorities told family members in Sanandaj that they intended to execute Ramin ahead of the first anniversary his arrest, June 23, 2017. VOA Persian could not independently verify that purported message from the prison.

Amjad Panahi also posted a video on his Twitter account Thursday, showing his parents speaking at their home and expressing despair about Ramin’s plight. In the video, verified by VOA Persian, the father said Iranian authorities recently took him to an unknown location and pressured him to make critical comments about his son Ramin as part of a video recording.

In the Twitter video, the father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, said he did not mean to malign his son.

“I’m old and miserable and did not understand what was going on,” he said. “We are waiting for our son, please help us.”

There was no immediate sign on the Internet of the purported second video that the father said the authorities had filmed.

Residents of Sanandaj sent VOA Persian images showing a heavier-than-usual security presence in the streets Wednesday and Thursday. Authorities at the city’s prison granted Ramin Panahi a reprieve from execution last month, taking him off death row after Iranian and international rights activists intensified a social media campaign for annulling his death sentence. But many of the activists said they feared Iran was delaying an execution until after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended last week.

Arrested in 2017

Panahi was arrested in June last year for belonging to Kurdish nationalist group Komala and allegedly drawing a weapon against Iranian security forces who were carrying out a raid in the region. He was sentenced to death by a Revolutionary court in January.

Amjad Panahi said his detained brother’s lawyer Ahmadiniaz told him on Thursday that Ramin denied harming any members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has expressed concern about allegations that Panahi did not receive a fair trial and that authorities mistreated and tortured him in detention.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian service. Michael Lipin reported from Washington.