Iran hangs 3 protesters in Isfahan as executions soar

Iran executed three men arrested during last year’s anti-regime protests on Friday. The country’s judiciary announced the move despite pleas from relatives and rights groups. 

Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi were put to death in the central city of Isfahan after they were convicted of killing a police officer and two Basij militiamen during a shooting attack at a demonstration held in the city last year, according to the judiciary’s website. 

Authorities did not reveal how the executions were carried out.

Large crowds gathered in Isfahan in central Iran Wednesday to demonstrate against the imminent execution of three protesters detained in the city’s Dastgerd Prison.

According to local reports, authorities in Isfahan closed off the roads around the prison to prevent protesters from approaching the facility. Security forces reportedly shot at the crowds.

The protests came after the families of Kazemi, Mirhashemi and Yaghoubi met with their sons at the prison on Wednesday. There, the relatives were informed that this would be their last visitation, raising fears that the detainees will be executed soon, according to Amnesty International.

On Wednesday, an opposition activist collective called 1500tasvir shared on Twitter a handwritten letter by the three inmates pleading for their lives.

“We need your help and support, don’t let them kill us,” the note read.

Kazemi, Mirhashemi and Yaghoubi  were arrested in November last year amid the nationwide anti-regime protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini. The three young men were convicted of killing a police officer and two Basij militiamen and sentenced to death. Authorities provided a taped confession as their only evidence.

Rights groups say the men were forced to confess to the crimes under torture. Amnesty International cited informed sources as saying that Kazemi was hung upside down during the interrogation and police showed him a video of his brother, who was also detained, being tortured. Kazemi was also subjected to at least 15 mock executions, according to the sources.

In a phone call with a relative that was shared on social media, Kazemi is heard saying, “I swear to God I am innocent. I didn’t have any weapons on me. They kept beating me and ordering me to say this weapon is mine. … I told them I would say whatever they wanted, just please leave my family alone. I did whatever they wanted because of the torture.”

“The shocking manner in which the trial and sentencing of these protesters was fast-tracked through Iran’s judicial system amid the use of torture-tainted ‘confessions,’ serious procedural flaws, and a lack of evidence, is another example of the Iranian authorities’ brazen disregard for the rights to life and fair trial,” Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Middle East deputy director, said in a press release on Wednesday.

The imminent execution of the three young men comes amid a surge in executions in the Islamic Republic despite international warnings and appeals. Executions soared from 333 in 2021 to at least 582 last year, according to Iran Human Rights. The United Nations said last week that more than 200 people have been executed this year.

“On average so far this year, over 10 people are put to death each week in Iran, making it one the world’s highest executors,” UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk said in a statement on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Iranian authorities executed two people in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj, in northwest Iran. According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, Mostafa Salehi and Jamshid Karimi were sentenced to death for murder. Local reports collected by the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran claim that at least 12 people were executed on Wednesday alone across Iran.

Five people were hanged over drug offenses Monday in the south of the country. Last week, two men convicted of blasphemy were also hanged in a rare death sentence for such a crime.

Amnesty says Iran is the world’s second biggest executioner after China.

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