Outcry after Iran judiciary announces the execution of three protestors

Iran’s judiciary said Tuesday that a court had upheld the death sentences for criminal actions during protests last November sparked by a hike in gasoline prices, sparking an outcry from human rights groups and a swell of activism against capital punishment on social media.

The demonstrations erupted after authorities more than doubled fuel prices overnight, exacerbating economic hardships in the sanctions-hit country.

Reformist Shargh newspaper named the three as Amirhossein Moradi, a 26-year-old who worked at a cellphone retailer; Said Tamjidi, a 28-year-old student; and Mohammad Rajabi, also 26.

The three men were arrested during one of the largest protests in the history of the Islamic Republic, triggered by a threefold rise in petrol prices amid an ailing economy suffocated by US sanctions. 

Rights groups have estimated at least 300 protesters were killed in the demonstrations and more than 7,000 were arrested.

Rajabi and Tamjidi sought asylum in Turkey after they were initially released, according to activists, but were deported in late December after spending a few weeks in a refugee camp. After a closed trial in January, they were convicted of offenses including sabotage, armed robbery and illegally fleeing the country.

A representative for the Iranian judiciary told an official website on Tuesday that an appeal against the sentences had failed for the trio, who say their confessions were “extracted under aberrant conditions”, according to their lawyers. The lawyers say they have been denied access to the case.

The trio’s lawyers say they are urgently calling for a judicial review, with fears the men could be imminently executed. “We have repeatedly stated that we have not been permitted to defend [our clients] and that they have no information about their trials,” the lawyers said in an open letter posted online.

Rights groups say all three have reported being beaten or tortured in detention including with electric shocks and by being hung upside down for extended periods.

The confirmation that their death sentences have sparked a surge of online protests including from prominent Iranian social media influencers, actors, film-makers, reformist politicians and athletes, who posted the men’s names or the hashtag “Don’t execute” in Farsi.

They included Hossein Mahini, a player from the national football team, and the former vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who warned the country’s rulers not to be stubborn in the face of a public outcry.

“An important part of this system, in case of protests, believe that measures should be toughened so they [protesters] don’t get brazen,” Abtahi wrote. “I have written many times that the system does not have the chance to be stubborn.”

US President Donald Trump warned Iran on Wednesday against executing three people allegedly involved in protests in November 2019. 

In tweets in English and Farsi, Donald Trump criticized the sentences on Thursday – a day after the US federal government carried out its first execution in 17 years in line with his administration’s policy of resuming capital punishment.

“Three individuals were sentenced to death in Iran for participating in protests,” he tweeted. “The execution is expected momentarily. Executing these three people sends a terrible signal to the world and should not be done!”

US President Donald Trump became the highest official on Wednesday to condemn the move.

The internet monitoring organization Net Blocks reported significant outages in parts of the country in the evening as the hashtag started to trend on social media platforms. Iran’s government is increasingly throttling and blocking internet access in response to widespread dissent or calls for demonstrations.

Iran executed about 251 people last year, according to Amnesty International, the second-highest in the world after China. It has issued a spate of death sentences in recent weeks including to the opposition journalist Ruhollah Zam and in recent days has executed a man for repeatedly drinking alcohol and another who was convicted of spying for the CIA.

Iran has blamed last year’s violence on “thugs” backed by its foes the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Photo Credits: The Times of Israel

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