A lawyer for an Iranian Kurdish man sentenced to death for belonging to a Kurdish nationalist group says his client has suffered a major legal setback in a bid to escape execution.
Speaking to VOA Persian by phone Monday from Tehran, lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz said Iran's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to spare the life of his client, Ramin Hossein Panahi.
"By law, the Supreme Court should have responded to my request for an appeal by stopping the [death penalty] from proceeding and reviewing the case in its entirety," Ahmadiniaz said. "Unfortunately, they did not do that for my client — they just skimmed through the case."
Ahmadiniaz said he will file a second appeal against Panahi's sentence, but did not explain how that will proceed. "I will do my utmost to use all legal procedures to get justice for my client," Ahmadiniaz said.
Panahi, who is in his 20s, was arrested in June 2017 for allegedly belonging to Kurdish nationalist group Komala and drawing a weapon against Iranian security forces who were carrying out a raid in the region. An Iranian court sentenced him to death in January. Since then, Panahi has been imprisoned in the northwestern city of Sanandaj.
A U.N. human rights expert issued a call last month for Iran to immediately halt and annul Panahi's death sentence. In a May 2 statement, Agnes Callamard, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said her office was concerned about allegations that Panahi had not received a fair trial and was mistreated and tortured in detention.
In a report published Sunday, Iranian state-run news site ISNA acknowledged Callamard's concerns, saying no evidence linking Panahi to any "intentional killing" was presented at his trial.
A Europe-based brother of Panahi told VOA Persian last month that authorities took Panahi from Sanandaj prison to an unknown location on May 1, prompting concerns of an imminent execution. But the brother said authorities returned Panahi to Sanandaj the next day and placed him in the prison's public ward rather than death row, where he had been kept previously.
Panahi's return to the Sanandaj prison coincided with Callamard's appeal for an annulment of his death sentence and a social media campaign by his supporters also seeking clemency for him.
Social media users concerned that Panahi still could be executed after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends this week have intensified their campaign in recent days. Twitter users posted at least 53,000 tweets with the hashtag #SOSRamin from Saturday into Sunday. SOS is an international code used to warn of extreme distress.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian Service.