They are the third and fourth protesters to have been executed by the government since September and the first time two have been killed on the same day, perhaps indicating a ramp-up of Iran’s deadly campaign to deter the protests that have hit it. country upside down for almost four months.
“These men were not executed after a judicial process, they were lynched,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a New York-based advocacy group. According to Ghaemi and other human rights activists, detainees are often physically and mentally tortured and forced to confess.
He added: “The Islamic Republic uses executions and deadly force against street protesters to instill terror in the hearts of the population to crush the hopes of the Iranian people and the call for change.”
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Iran sentenced 16 people in a mass trial in early December, including three minors, and sentenced five to death, including Karami, Hosseini and Hamid Ghare-Hassanlou, 53, a prominent doctor who was tortured in prison according to his family and human rights groups. Ghare-Hassanlou’s death sentence was overturned earlier this week and he is set to be tried again.
Two other men, both 23, were executed separately in December after they were accused of taking part in attacking or killing members of the security forces.
There was widespread international condemnation of the December executions, although it does not appear to have deterred the Iranian judiciary.
Protests began last September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the “morals police” for allegedly wearing inappropriate clothing. At least 517 people have been killed and nearly 20,000 arrested, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
Video posted online from the November 3 killing shows a mob of protesters beating up a member of the Basij as he lies motionless on the road. Many of those in attendance were returning that day from a ceremony commemorating Hadis Najafi, a young woman who was killed in September during an anti-government protest.
Karami and Hosseini are accused of participating in the murder of the Basij member. Amnesty International called the court proceedings “an expedited unfair sham group case … which bore no resemblance to court proceedings.”
In a video posted online last month, Karami’s father explained that his son is a karate champion who placed fourth on the national team. Both he and Karami’s mother then pleaded in the video that the judiciary would not execute their son.
Karami had been on a hunger strike four days before his execution to demand access to his lawyer, which he and the other prisoners were denied, according to CHRI.
Hosseini was severely tortured in prison and forced to confess in violation of international law, according to his lawyer, Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani. The abuse included tying Hosseini’s hands and feet, kicking his head until he lost consciousness and subjecting him to electric shocks throughout his body, Ardakani said in a December tweet.
Their trial took place in the first branch of the Karaj Revolutionary Court, which is part of a judicial system set up to protect the ruling clerics and the fearsome security forces of the Revolutionary Guards. Its chairman, Musa Asef al-Hosseini, has handed down 23 sentences, including five death sentences, according to HRANA.
Al-Hosseini has so far handed down the highest number of death sentences in this round of protests, Shiva Nazarahari, a member of the Follow-up Commission on the Situation of Detainees Outside Iran, told The Washington Post. Another notoriously ruthless judge, Abolqasem Salavati, is under US sanctions and has issued 10 verdicts, including one death sentence.
Nazarahari’s commission monitors the arrests and convictions of protesters, a difficult task as detainees and their families are under extreme state pressure to remain silent and information about trials is often not public.
Nazarahari said eight people remain on death row after several death sentences were successfully appealed, and more than 80 people are currently facing charges that could lead to a death sentence.
When members of the Iranian security forces are “hurt, injured or killed, [authorities] would arrest dozens of people, give them long prison terms or sentence them to death, as in the case of today’s execution,” Nazarahari said. “On the other hand, more than 500 protesters have been killed, but no one has taken responsibility for just one of them.”
“It’s inexplicable how much pain we feel,” she said of Saturday’s executions. “This is what she [Iran’s leaders] want us to feel. So we have to get back on our feet.”