Iran carries out second execution linked to wave of popular protests

  • The 23-year-old protester is the second executed within a week
  • Activists say the executions are meant to discourage dissent
  • Call for further national protests over Rahnavard’s hanging
  • European Union to impose more sanctions on Iran, supports protests
  • Tehran accuses the West of meddling and targets it with sanctions

DUBAI, Dec 12 (Reuters) – The Islamic Republic publicly hanged on Monday a man who state media said had been convicted of killing two members of the security forces, the second execution in less than a week of people involved in protests against a ruling by Iran theocracy.

Nationwide unrest broke out three months ago following the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police enforcing the Islamic Republic’s mandatory dress code laws.

The demonstrations turned into a popular uprising by angry Iranians from all walks of life, posing one of the worst challenges to the legitimacy of the Shiite clerical elite since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“Majid Reza Rahnavard was publicly hanged in (the holy Shiite city of) Mashhad this morning… He was sentenced to death for ‘waging war against God’ after stabbing to death two members of the security forces,” the court said system. This was reported by the Mizan agency.

Mizan posted photos of the execution in the early hours, showing Rahnavard hanging from a construction crane, his hands and feet bound and his head covered with a black bag.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported that Rakhnavard killed two members of the Basij volunteer unit and wounded four others. Basij forces, linked to the elite Revolutionary Guard, were at the forefront of the state’s crackdown on the protests.

Calling for further protests across the country, activists on social media criticized the execution of Rahnavard, 23, as a “criminal act” by clerical rulers to stifle dissent.

“They called Rahnavard’s family at 7am (local time) and told them to go to the Behesht-e Reza cemetery. “We executed your child and buried him, they said,” the widely followed activist account 1500Tasvir posted on Twitter.

The content of the post cannot be verified by Reuters.

On Thursday, Iran hanged Mohsen Shekari, who was convicted of stabbing a security guard and blocking a street in Tehran, the first such execution after thousands of arrests over the riots, prompting a chorus of Western condemnations and sanctions.

Human rights groups said Shekari was tortured and forced to confess. Molavi Abdulhamid, an outspoken Sunni Muslim cleric in the Shiite-ruled Islamic Republic, said Shekari’s death sentence violated Sharia (Islamic law), his website said.

State media released a video of a man, identified as Rahnavard, stabbing another man who had fallen against a parked motorcycle, then stabbing another man immediately afterward and then running away.

State television showed a video in which Rahnavard told the court that he came 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 said Iranian authorities were seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in what it called “sham trials designed to intimidate participants in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran”.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the EU would agree to a “very hard” a package of sanctions against Iran to show its support for peaceful protesters.

Blaming foreign enemies such as the United States and Israel for the unrest, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Monday dismissed Western criticism of rights abuses during the crackdown as interference in Iran’s state affairs.

On Monday, Tehran imposed sanctions on dozens of officials and organizations from the EU and Britain “for their support and incitement” of the unrest, state television said.

The unrest was closely watched by Israel, where a national security official said the executions did not appear to deter protesters and could further “kill the regime”.

“Since it can only respond with force, it has intensified for the public the discontent that is being protested,” the Israeli official told Reuters. “There’s no getting that genie back in the bottle.”

Human rights group HRANA said 488 protesters had been killed as of Sunday, including 68 minors. It said 62 members of the security forces were also killed. An estimated 18,259 protesters were arrested, it said.

While the UN says the protests have cost more than 300 lives, Iran’s top state security body 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; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Hugh Lawson and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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