PARIS: Iran on Monday executed a second man in connection with protests that have shaken the regime for almost three months, defying an international outcry over its use of capital punishment against those involved in the movement. Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, had been sentenced to death by a court in the city of Mashhad for killing two members of the security forces with a knife, and wounding four other people, the judiciary’s Mizan Online news agency reported. It said he was hanged in public in the city, rather than inside prison.
Europe and the United States reacted with outrage after Iran on Thursday carried out the first execution linked to the protests. Mohsen Shekari, also 23, was hanged after his conviction for wounding a member of the security forces. Iran calls the protests “riots” and says they have been encouraged by its foreign foes. Mizan published images of Rahnavard’s execution, showing a man with his hands tied behind his back hanging from a rope attached to a crane. The execution took place before dawn and there was no sign of any significant number of people witnessing it.
The director of Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, said Rahnavard “was sentenced to death based on coerced confessions after a grossly unfair process and a show trial”. “The public execution of a young protester, 23 days after his arrest, is another serious crime committed by the Islamic Republic’s leaders and a significant escalation of the level of violence against protesters,” he told AFP.
The weeks of protest were sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, a Kurdish-Iranian arrested by the morality police for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women. The protests represent the biggest challenge to the regime since the shah’s ouster in 1979 and have been met with a crackdown that activists say aims to instill public fear.
EU ministers meeting in Brussels were Monday expected to impose fresh sanctions on Iran over the crackdown on the protesters and its supply of drones to Russia used in the war on Ukraine. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was going to “approve a very, very tough package of sanctions”. “These executions are a blatant attempt to intimidate people, not for committing crimes but just for taking their opinions to the streets, just for wanting to live in freedom,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.
US-based dissident Masih Alinejad charged that “Majidreza Rahnavard’s crime was protesting the murder of Mahsa Amini. “The regime’s method of dealing with protests is execution,” said Alinejad, adding: “EU, recall your ambassadors.” Prior to the two executions, Iran’s judiciary said it had issued death sentences to 11 people in connection with the protests, but campaigners say around a dozen others face charges that could see them also receive the death penalty.
Reports ahead of the execution had described Rahnavard as a young fitness fanatic who was a keen amateur wrestler and had won competitions. Rights groups including IHR have said images have shown he was beaten in custody and forced into a purported confession broadcast on state media. The protest monitor social media channel 1500tasvir said his family had been informed of the execution only after it was carried out. It published pictures of a last meeting between the condemned man and his mother, saying she had left with no idea he was about to die.
Iran’s use of the death penalty is part of a crackdown that IHR says has seen the security forces kill at least 458 people. According to the UN, at least 14,000 have been arrested. Iran is already the world’s most prolific user of the death penalty after China, Amnesty International says. Public executions are however highly unusual in the Islamic republic, and one in July was described by IHR as the first in two years.
Amnesty International Saturday warned that the lives of two more young men sentenced to death – Mahan Sadrat and Sahand Nourmohammadzadeh – were both at imminent risk. Amiry-Moghaddam warned of “a serious risk of mass execution of protesters” and urged a strong international “response that deters the Islamic Republic leaders from more executions”. Before the second execution was announced, Oscar-winning Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi on his Instagram account urged the authorities to halt the executions. “Killing and executing defenseless young people and the oppressed will only bring you more anger and more hate,” he said. – AFP