Iran executes two men in connection with anti-hijab protests

The latest hangings double the number of executions to four over the nationwide unrest, which has escalated since mid-September into calls for an end to Iran's clerical regime.

Published: 07th January 2023 12:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th January 2023 09:22 PM   |  A+A-

Iran Execution

An image grab of footage obtained from Iranian State TV IRINN on January 7, 2023, shows Mohammad Mahdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, who were executed by Iran. (Photo | AFP)

By AFP

PARIS: Iran drew international condemnation on Saturday as it executed two men for killing a paramilitary force member in November during unprecedented protests sparked by Mahsa Amini's death in custody.

The latest hangings double the number of executions to four over the nationwide unrest, which has escalated since mid-September into calls for an end to Iran's clerical regime. They also come in defiance of a campaign by international rights groups for the lives of the two men to be spared.

Judicial news agency Mizan Online reported that "Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, the main perpetrators of the crime that led to the martyrdom of Ruhollah Ajamian, were hanged this morning."

Prosecutors said the 27-year-old militiaman was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi. The UN human rights office decried the executions, which it said followed "unfair trials based on forced confessions."

"We urge Iran to halt all executions," it said on Twitter.

#Iran: We deplore the execution of two more protesters, #MohammadMehdiKarami & #MohammadHosseini, following unfair trials based on forced confessions. It's shocking that Iran continues to execute protesters despite international outcry. We urge Iran to halt all executions.

— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) January 7, 2023

The European Union said it was "appalled" by the executions. "This is yet another sign of the Iranian authorities' violent repression of civilian demonstrations," the spokesperson for the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, urging an immediate end to death sentences against protesters.

Iranian authorities have arrested thousands in their crackdown on the wave of demonstrations that began after the September 16 death of Iranian Kurdish woman Amini, 22, after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran's dress code for women. Two other men were put to death in December, sparking global outrage and new Western sanctions against Iran.

ALSO READ | Two dozen young Iranians risk being hanged to death over protests

'Sham trials'

The slain Ajamian belonged to the Basij paramilitary force, linked to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He died in Karaj, west of Tehran, on November 3 after being attacked with "knives, stones, fists, kicks" and dragged along a street, a judiciary spokesman said at the time.

Karami and Hosseini were sentenced to death in early December, Mizan said, while the supreme court upheld the decision on Tuesday.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), said both men "were subjected to torture, sentenced after sham trials... without the minimum standards for due process." IHR gave Karami's age as 22. Hossein was 39, according to another Norway-based rights group, Hengaw.

Karami's parents had in December issued a video pleading for authorities to spare his life. "I respectfully ask the judiciary, I beg you please, I ask you... to remove the death penalty from my son's case," said Mashallah Karami. He described his son as a former national karate team member and told Iranian media that a family lawyer had been unable to access his case file.

Karami was not allowed to have a final meeting with his family and had foregone food and water in protest, according to Mohamad Aghasi, whom relatives wanted to handle the case, in remarks on Twitter.

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'Even more hardliners'

The pair were among 14 people courts have sentenced to death over the unrest, according to an AFP count based on official information.

Four have now been executed, two others have had their sentences confirmed by the supreme court, six are awaiting new trials and two others can appeal. Dozens of other protesters face charges punishable by death, IHR said in late December.

Campaigners have called for stronger international action after the latest executions. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran called on countries to withdraw their ambassadors from Tehran.

"We are mourning as a nation," prominent US-based dissident Masih Alinejad said on Twitter. "Help us save others."

Nearly four months into the unrest triggered by Amini's death, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday appointed a new police chief. General Ahmad-Reza Radan took over from Hossein Ashtari, said a statement posted on the leader's official website. Khamenei ordered the police department to "improve its capabilities."

Iran expert Mehrzad Boroujerdi told AFP before the announcement that there had been "rumours that Khamenei has severely criticised" Ashtari's performance. He said he expected people like Ashtari to be replaced by "even more hardliners to maintain a tight grip" over the security forces.

Iranian officials describe the protests as "riots" and accuse hostile foreign powers and opposition groups of stoking the unrest.

The latest executions were the first linked to the demonstrations in almost a month.

Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard, both 23, were executed in early December for separate attacks on security forces.



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