DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran said Thursday it has executed a prisoner convicted of a crime allegedly committed during the country’s ongoing nationwide protests, the first death penalty carried out by Tehran.
Mohsen Shekari’s execution comes as other detainees also face the death penalty for their involvement in the protests, which began in mid-September, first in protest against Iran’s morality police. The protests have become one of the most serious challenges to the Iranian theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Activists warn others could also be put to death in the near future, saying at least a dozen people have so far received the death penalty for their involvement in the demonstrations.
The execution “must be met with strong reactions or we will face daily executions of protesters,” wrote Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights. “This execution must quickly have practical consequences internationally.”
The Mizan news agency, run by Iran’s judiciary, said Shekari had been convicted by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, which normally holds cases behind closed doors. The tribunals have been criticized internationally for not allowing those on trial to choose their own lawyer or even see the evidence against them.
Shekari was charged with blocking a street in Tehran and attacking with a machete a member of the security forces, who required stitches for his injuries, the agency said.
The Mizan report also alleged that Shekari said he was given money by an acquaintance to attack the security forces.
The Iranian government has been trying for months to claim – without providing any evidence – that foreigners have fueled the unrest. Protesters say they are angry at the collapse of the economy, the heavy-handed police crackdown and the entrenched power of the country’s Islamic clergy.
Mizan said Shekari was arrested on Sept. 25 and subsequently sentenced on Nov. 20 on charges of “moharebeh,” a Farsi word meaning “to wage war against God.” That charge has been brought against others in the decades since 1979 and carries the death penalty. Mizan said an appeal against the sentence by Shekari’s lawyer failed.
After his execution, Iranian state television aired a heavily edited package featuring the courtroom and parts of Shekari’s trial, presided over by Judge Abolghassem Salavati.
Salavati faces US sanctions for imposing harsh sentences.
“Salavati alone has sentenced more than 100 political prisoners, human rights activists, media workers and others seeking to exercise freedom of assembly to long prison terms and several death sentences,” the U.S. Treasury Department said when it endorsed it in 2019.
“Judges of these Revolutionary Courts, including Salavati, have acted as both judge and prosecutor, denying prisoners access to lawyers and intimidating defendants.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock condemned Shekari’s execution in a Twitter post, saying that “the Iranian regime’s contempt for humanity is boundless.”
James Cleverly, the UK’s foreign secretary, described himself as “outraged” and said: “The world cannot turn a blind eye to the appalling violence of the Iranian regime against its own people.”
The French Foreign Ministry said the execution is yet another example of serious, unacceptable violations of fundamental rights and freedoms by the Iranian authorities.
Iran has been rocked by protests since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being detained by the country’s vice squad. At least 475 people have died in the demonstrations amid a security crackdown, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has followed the protests from the start. More than 18,000 have been detained by authorities.
Iran is one of the world’s best executioners. It usually executes prisoners by hanging. Amnesty International said it had obtained a document signed by a senior Iranian police commander calling for the execution of one prisoner to be completed “in the shortest possible time” and that his death sentence be carried out in public as “a heartwarming gesture towards the security forces.’”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated on Thursday that the organization strongly opposes the death penalty.
“And we regret what we see today in Iran and unfortunately in other countries as well,” Dujarric said. “What we would like to see is a world where the death penalty does not exist.”
Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.
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