By executing a protester after a rapid trial, Iran's clerical regime has taken its clampdown on the once-in-a-generation uprising to a new level. Observers fear there are more to come soon.
Iranians were infuriated by the Islamic judiciary's execution Thursday morning of a 23-year-old protester, Mohsen Shekari. Opposition media and Iranians on social media called it murder. The public hanging, on charges that Shekari took part in the stabbing of a state agent in Tehran, showed the regime is hellbent on crushing weeks of protests and silencing calls for regime change.
Shekari was arrested in protests in downtown Tehran on Sept. 25, and convicted of having injured a state security agent with a knife. The formal charges against him — and various other jailed protesters — was "waging war on God" a part of the Iranian penal code that is punishable by death, though he barely was afforded minimal legal proceedings. According to reports, Shekari was not given the right to select his own lawyer, nor was he given a chance to defend himself at the sentencing trial.
An informed source told Kayhan-London that when a lawyer sought to take up Shekari's defense, prosecutors told him Shekari had waived his right to choose a lawyer. So the court assigned him one who was no doubt obedient to the judiciary.
There were various discrepancies in the case. The state agent stabbed in Tehran that day was reportedly wearing nothing to indicate his status as law enforcement — although he was busy beating demonstrators — nor was there even evidence to prove that Shekari had stabbed him.
But in today's Iran, such details, due process or apparent discrepancies can quickly become trifling matters.
A warning to all Iranians
The state wanted to carry out an exemplary execution as a warning to all Iranians. On Dec. 5, the head of the judiciary, Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei had announced that death sentences given to multiple protesters convicted of "waging war on God" and "spreading corruption in the land" were confirmed and would soon be carried out. He admitted these had been processed in a "very, very short time."
The execution has also raised the alarm among families of other detainees. Relatives of three of them, Hamid Qarahasanlu, Ali Moazzami-Gudarzi and Saman Yasin, feared their executions could happen within days.
Not that the regime requires the formality of an execution to rid itself of people. These protests began in September with the death in custody of a woman, Mahsa Amini. Similarly, on Dec. 8 there were reports of another detainee, Shademan Ahmadi, dying inside a police station in Dehgolan, in Kurdish-inhabited western Iran.
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi at Tehran University on Wednesday, surrounded by other regime officials
Iranian Presidency via ZUMA
Consequences for Iran's regime
Reactions abroad to the execution have been arguably measured. States and world agencies duly condemned it and asked the regime to stop further executions. The UN's rapporteur for rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, told Voice of America on Dec. 8 that Iranians must send the agency any evidence they had of rights violations in Iran in recent weeks for a subsequent UN inquiry. Iranian authorities have already scoffed at any such inquiry.
The NGO Iran Human Rights urged Western states to show Iran "serious consequences" beyond condemnations. Two exiled well-known personalities, the jurist and Nobel prizewinner Shirin Ebadi and the crown prince Reza Pahlavi, urged them to expel Iran's diplomats. This has been a demand of opponents for weeks now, though Western states have demurred.
Iran's authorities have vowed more firmness. President Ibrahim Raisi has reportedly promised a continuation of this "decisive" response in spite of foreign condemnations, saying that in time "the hullabaloo will die down." One senior cleric, Ahmad Khatami, thanked the judiciary for the execution.
Late on Dec. 8 in parts of Tehran, people were heard chanting "Death to the Dictator," referring to the country's supreme leader. Other acts of defiance were also reported that night. The London-based broadcaster Iran International reported on calls by activists to march in protest in Tehran on Dec. 10.