Nicosia: Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that Iran has hanged four Iranian Arab activists from Khuzestan province on terrorism charges and sentenced to death five others who could soon face the same fate.

“What we are witnessing today in Iran’s Khuzestan province is state-sanctioned killing that, by many accounts, is aimed at silencing voices that are critical of the government’s policies in the region,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based HRW.

“Death penalty verdicts produced at breakneck speed without a modicum of due process protections for the accused invites nothing but scepticism about the merits of the government’s case,” she said in a statement.

Following reports on June 17 that four Arab men charged with terrorism-related activities were executed, “Iran’s judiciary should immediately quash execution orders against five other activists” from Iran’s ethnic Arab minority, HRW said.

The five, arrested in February 2011, were named as Hadi Rashedi, 38, Hashem Shaabani, 32, Mohammad Ali Amouri, 34, and brothers Seyed Mokhtar, 25, and Seyed Jaber Alboshokeh, 27.

They were convicted behind closed doors of terrorism-related charges that carry the death penalty for alleged membership of an armed Arab separatist group and taking part in attacks, it said.

“There is little information available about the evidence used against the men except for televised confessions,” said HRW. “The lack of transparency ... is just one more reason why these execution orders should be quashed.”

Khuzestan, bordering Iraq and which is home to between one and two million Iranian Arabs, was rocked by sectarian violence in 2005, since when frequent attacks, protests and arrests have been reported.

HRW says 12 members of the province’s Arab community have been executed since May 2011, including a 16-year-old youth. At least six others have died in detention after having been tortured, according to testimony collected by HRW.