- The 23-year-old protester is the second to be executed within a week
- Activists say executions are designed to discourage dissent
- Call for additional nationwide protests over Rahnavard’s hanging
- European Union to impose more sanctions on Iran, supports protests
- Tehran accuses the West of interference and imposes sanctions
DUBAI, Dec. 12 (Reuters) – The Islamic Republic on Monday publicly hanged a man convicted of killing two members of the security forces, according to state media, the second execution in less than a week of people involved in protests against Iran’s ruling. theocracy.
Nationwide unrest erupted three months ago following the death in detention of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by the morality police enforcing the Islamic Republic’s mandatory dress code laws.
The demonstrations have turned into a popular uprising of irate Iranians from all walks of life, posing one of the worst legitimacy challenges for the Shiite clerical elite since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“Majid Reza Rahnavard was publicly hanged this morning in (the holy Shia city) Mashhad… He was sentenced to death for ‘waging war against God’ after stabbing to death two members of the security forces,” the judiciary said. This is reported by the Mizan news agency.
Mizan published photographs of the sunrise execution, showing Rahnavard hanging from a construction crane, his hands bound and his head covered with a black bag.
According to the semi-official Fars news agency, Rahnavard killed two members of the Basij volunteer force and wounded four others. The Basij force, allied to the elite Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state’s crackdown on the protests.
Calling for additional protests across the country, activists on social media criticized the execution of 23-year-old Rahnavard as “a criminal act” by the ecclesiastical rulers to deter dissent.
“They called Rahnavard’s family at 7am (local time) and told them to go to the Behesht-e Reza cemetery. ‘We executed and buried your child,’ they said,” widely followed activist account 1500Tasvir posted on Twitter.
The content of the message could not be verified by Reuters.
On Thursday, Iran hanged Mohsen Shekari, who was convicted of stabbing a guard with a knife and blocking a street in Tehran, the first such execution after thousands of arrests over the unrest, drawing a chorus of Western condemnation and sanctions.
Rights groups have said Shekari was tortured and forced to confess. Molavi Abdolhamid, an outspoken Sunni cleric in the Shia-ruled Islamic Republic, has said Shekari’s death sentence violates Sharia (Islamic law), according to his website.
State media released a video of a man, identified as Rahnavard, stabbing another man who fell into a parked motorcycle, then immediately after stabbing another person and then running away.
State television showed a video of Rahnavard saying in court that he grew to hate the Basij forces after seeing them beat and kill protesters in videos posted on social media. Activists said he was forced to confess under torture.
Amnesty International has said Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in what it called “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran”.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday the EU will agree on a “very tough” package of sanctions against Iran to show its support for peaceful protesters.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Monday blamed foreign enemies such as the United States and Israel and dismissed Western criticism of rights violations during the crackdown as interference in Iranian state affairs.
Tehran on Monday imposed sanctions on dozens of EU and British officials and entities “for their support and instigation” of the unrest, state television reported.
The unrest was closely watched by Israel, where a national security official said the executions did not appear to deter protesters and could further restrict the regime.
“Because it can only respond with force, for the public that has amplified the complaint being protested,” the Israeli official told Reuters. “There is no return from this genie to the bottle.”
Rights group HRANA said 488 protesters had been killed on Sunday, including 68 minors. It said 62 members of the security forces had also been killed. As many as 18,259 protesters were said to have been arrested, it said.
While the United Nations says the protests have claimed more than 300 lives, a top Iranian state security agency has said 200 people, including members of the security forces, have died in the unrest.
Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; writing by Parisa Hafezi; edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Hugh Lawson and Mark Heinrich
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