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Iran Confirms First Execution Of A Protester

Iranian authorities have begun prosecuting multiple demonstrators arrested at recent mass protests, accusing them of the gravest crimes that are punishable by the death penalty. Authorities said a man arrested at a Tehran protest in October was hanged Thursday.

Photo of men and women killed during protests in Iran laid out in Paris

Photographs of men and women killed during recent protests in Iran


Updated Dec. 8, 11:30 a.m CET

Iran's clerical regime, which has faced persistent anti-state protests since mid-September, is activating a tried-and-tested mechanism for terminating opposition: executions.

In recent days the judiciary has leveled the gravest charges in its juridical arsenal at dozens of detained protesters, namely "waging war on God" (muhariba) and "spreading corruption in the land" (afsad fi al-arz).

On Thursday, Iranian state media reported for the first time that the regime has executed a man arrested during the uprising. The man was accused of injuring a paramilitary officer at a protest in Tehran, and sentenced to death in late October for "waging war on God," reports Mizan Online, a state-run news agency. The hanging took place Thursday morning.

Such charges, which are based on interpretations of Koranic verses and are usually thrown at the Islamic Republic's worst criminal offenders, allowing a judge to issue a death sentence.

A slogan from the streets

An already infuriated Iranian population now has something new to be inflamed about. 15 defendants, including minors, are being charged--with the prospect that they might even face execution. Protestors have responded with determination and anger, adding a new slogan to their chants. In akharin payam-e, e'dam konid qiameh! they have yelled, or, "this is the last message, execute and there will be a revolt!"

On November 30th, a court in Karaj in the Alborz province north of Tehran, began trials of the 15, accused of being accessory to the death of a Basiji militiaman, Nurallah Ajamian. The Basij is a component of the Revolutionary Guards and often called out to quell protests.

Three of the defendants are 17 years old, but despite their status as minors the head of the Alborz provincial judiciary has declared them to be "corrupters of the land" for their "numerous" crimes against public security and attacks on state forces. Prosecutors cite as evidence for the charges phone contents and "criminal print material," and are asking the court for "maximum penalties."

The regime sees executions as an "edifying" message to dissuade Iranians from engaging in further protests.

Ajamian was killed near a cemetery on November 3, following clashes between security forces and those mourning the death of Hadis Najafi, who was killed during a protest. Two days later, the head of the Alborz provincial judiciary announced that suspects had been caught, and claimed they had killed Ajamian with "knives, machetes, brass knuckles and stones."

He announced at the time that 11 suspects would be charged as "corrupters of the land." Since then, the number has inexplicably risen to 15.

Harshest penalties possible

The Karaj trial is just one of several being organized across Iran. Others detained protestors facing similar charges include singer and rapper Toomaj Salehi, to be tried in Isfahan, Amir Reza Rahnavard in Mashhad, and Parham Parvari at the Tehran Revolutionary Court.

According to HRNA, which reports on human rights in Iran, the latest death toll after weeks of protests stands at 459, including 64 children or teenagers, and 61 state agents. The Iranian government claims that somewhere around 300 fatalities have occurred thus far. The protests erupted in mid-September in reaction to the death of 22-year-old girl, Mahsa Amini, while she was held in police custody in Tehran.

The regime likely sees executions as an "edifying" message to dissuade Iranians from engaging in further protests. On November 16, the judiciary announced it had issued three other death sentences for detained protesters, while some reports claim the judiciary has already issued at least 20 death sentences without publicizing them. In early November, 227 members of Iran's parliament--arguably representing the regime, not their constituents--asked the courts to issue the harshest penalties possible in these cases.

What will the international community say?

Hussein Jalali, a member of the parliamentary Culture Committee, later walked back the petition, clarifying that legislators had only called for the "retaliatory" execution of protesters found to have killed agents, "in line with the laws of Islam." In practice and as shown in past cases like the execution of the wrestler Navid Afkari, Iranians suspect the courts will find a way of including homicide in a defendant's dossier to justify execution.

The regime has said it will not collaborate with any UN inquiry.

On November 24, the UN Human Rights Council voted to investigate the rights violations likely to have been committed in response to these protests. The Special Rapporteur for rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, recently told Reuters that he feared this would prompt the regime to become harsher with protesters. His count of Iranian detainees facing possible execution for the protests is 21, while an Iranian NGO, Iran Human Rights, has listed the names of 26 so far. The regime has said it will not collaborate with any UN inquiry.

The trials of protestors have brought to light other security dossiers that may also lead to executions. The judiciary recently announced the confirmation of death sentences given to four individuals arrested months ago and accused of collaborating with Israel. Their case relates to reports that purported Israeli agents and local collaborators interrogated a Revolutionary Guard official, Mansur Rasuli, in search of information concerning suspected terrorist plans abroad.

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