Iran executes three men linked to anti-government protests

The men were subjected to torture, forced into televised confessions and denied due process, human rights groups say.

Iran has executed three men accused of deadly violence against security officers during last year’s anti-government protests despite objections from human rights groups.

Mizan, the judiciary’s website, announced on Friday the executions of Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi. The statement did not reveal details of how the death penalty was carried out.

Authorities said the men killed a police officer and two members of the paramilitary Basij group in Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city, in November 2022 during nationwide protests.

All three men were convicted of “moharebeh”, an Islamic legal term meaning “waging war against God”, for using weapons, forming a group to undermine national security, and cooperating with the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a Europe-based group that Tehran considers a “terrorist” organisation.

The Supreme Court said it saw no credible reason to accept their appeal cases as they aimed to “overthrow the holy Islamic Republic establishment” and also engaged in arson during “riots”.

Earlier this week, as the families of the three men said they suspected their sentences could be carried out soon, they demonstrated in front of the central prison in Isfahan where they were being held. They also released videos and asked the people to support them.

Videos also emerged online earlier this week showing many cars congregating around the prison area, with drivers honking their horns and chanting slogans in support of staying the executions. A short message purportedly handwritten and signed by the three men was widely published online, in which they said, “Don’t let them kill us.”

Widespread crackdowns after protests

The protests began in mid-September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by “morality police” in Tehran for allegedly not adhering to a mandatory dress code for women.

The demonstrations have largely subsided in recent months, though there are still sporadic acts of defiance, including the refusal of a growing number of women to adhere to the dress code.

Foreign-based human rights organisations say more than 500 people died during the unrest. Some 19,000 people were arrested, though many have since been released.

Executions and torture

The three men were subjected to torture, forced into televised confessions, and denied due process, human rights groups say.

Iran has executed seven people in connection with the protests. In January, two men were hanged after being convicted of killing a member of the Basij force during protests. The country’s Supreme Court confirmed their sentences for “corruption on Earth”, according to Mizan.

“The prosecution relied on forced ‘confessions’ and the indictment was riddled with irregularities that reveal this was a politically motivated case,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

The group said Kazemi called a relative and accused authorities of torturing him by flogging his feet, using a stun gun, and threatening him with sexual assault.

London-based Amnesty International also criticised the cases.

“The shocking manner in which the trial and sentencing of these protesters was fast-tracked through Iran’s judicial system amid the use of torture-tainted ‘confessions’, serious procedural flaws, and a lack of evidence is another example of the Iranian authorities’ brazen disregard for the rights to life and fair trial,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

At least 582 people were executed in 2022 in Iran, up from 333 the previous year.

This month Iran hanged several prisoners, including a man known as the “Sultan of Cocaine”, as the United Nations warned of a rising number of executions. Two others were hanged for blasphemy convictions that included organising anti-religious activities.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies