Iran carries out 2nd execution linked to anti-government protests
Execution of 23-year-old man is 'criminal act' by clerical establishment, say activists
Iran hanged a man in public on Monday who had been convicted of killing two members of security forces, the judiciary's Mizan news agency reported, the second execution linked to anti-government protests in less than a week.
Nationwide protests, in their third month, erupted after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 while in the custody of morality police enforcing strict mandatory dress code laws.
The demonstrations have turned into a popular revolt by furious Iranians from all layers of society, posing one of the worst legitimacy challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution.
"Majid Reza Rahnavard was hanged in public in [the holy Shia city of] Mashhad this morning ... he was sentenced to death for 'waging war against God' after stabbing to death two members of security forces," Mizan said.
'A criminal act'
Activists on social media criticized the execution of the 23-year-old Rahnavard as "a criminal act" by the clerical establishment to deter dissent.
Iran's hanging of another young man, Mohsen Shekari, on Thursday who was convicted of injuring a security guard with a knife and blocking a street in Tehran during protests has been widely condemned by the United States and its allies.
Rights groups have said Shekari was tortured and forced to confess.
Amnesty International has said Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in what it called "sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran."
From Brussels, the European Union's foreign ministers expressed dismay at the latest execution. The bloc approved on Monday a fresh series of sanctions against Iran over its crackdown on protesters, and also for supplying drones to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, the bloc's top diplomat said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he spoke to Iran's foreign minister regarding Tehran's response to the protests and the latest execution and that it was "not an easy conversation."
Blaming the unrest on foreign foes such as the United States and Israel, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani on Monday rejected Western criticism of rights abuses during the crackdown as meddling in Iran's state matters.
The U.S. State Department denounced Iran on Monday, saying the use of harsh sentencing and public execution is meant to intimidate people protesting against the ruling theocracy.
"We denounce this Draconian treatment in the strongest terms. These harsh sentences and now the first public execution ... are meant to intimidate Iran's people. They're meant to suppress dissent," State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at a briefing.
The unrest has been watched closely by Israel, where a national security official said the executions did not appear to be deterring protesters and could further "box in the regime."
"Because it can only respond with force, that has reinforced for the public the grievance being protested over," the Israeli official told Reuters. "There is no returning this genie to the bottle."
Iran's state media aired footage of a man, whom they identified as Rahnavard, stabbing another man who fell against a parked motorcycle and then stabbing another person immediately after.
More than 18,000 believed to have been arrested
Mizan said Rahnavard was arrested when trying to flee the country 23 days ago. It said that his sentence was upheld by a higher court.
Rights group HRANA said that as of Sunday 488 protesters had been killed, including 68 minors. It said 62 members of the security forces had also been killed. As many as 18,259 protesters are believed to have been arrested, it said.
While the United Nations says the protests have cost more than 300 lives, a top Iranian state security body has said that 200 people, including members of the security forces, had died in the unrest.
Iran is one of the world's top executioners and typically executes prisoners by hanging. It executed the first prisoner detained during demonstrations last Thursday. So far this year, it has executed over 500 prisoners, the highest number in five years, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
"In the absence of serious measures to deter the Islamic Republic from executing protesters, we will be facing even more horrific crimes like the 1980s mass execution of political prisoners," the group warned Monday. That refers to the 1988 executions in part overseen by Iran's current hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi that activists believe saw as many as 5,000 inmates put to death.
Amnesty International has said it obtained a document signed by one senior Iranian police commander asking that the execution for one prisoner be "completed `in the shortest possible time' and that his death sentence be carried out in public as "a heart-warming gesture towards the security forces."'
Amid the unrest, Iran is also battered by an economic crisis that has seen the national currency, the rial, drop to new lows against the U.S. dollar.
With files from The Associated Press