Iran Executes Man Amid Protests Across the Country
Mohsen Shekari, 23, was executed for obstructing traffic and assaulting a member of the Basij militia during a demonstration in Tehran.
On Thursday, the Iranian authorities executed a 23-year-old man for his alleged role in the unrest that has gripped the country for the past three months.
The Mizan news agency, which is governed by the country's judiciary, reports that Mohsen Shekari was arrested for blocking a street in Tehran and for attacking a member of the Basij militia with a machete, resulting in the man needing 13 stitches following a protest.
According to the news agency, Mr. Shekari was seized on September 25 and condemned on November 20 by Iran's Revolutionary Court, a special court for political matters and political detainees. He was accused of "moharebeh," or declaring war on God, which is a capital offense punishable by death. He was executed in a few of weeks.
The swiftness with which his execution followed his trial sends a chilling message to demonstrators demanding an end to the system of authoritarian religious authority that has prevailed in Iran since 1979.
“Iranian authorities have executed a protester, sentenced to death in show trials without any due process,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based activist group, posted on Twitter. He warned that unless the world community responded to the execution with "strong reactions," the country would soon be "seeing daily executions of demonstrators."
Sanam Vakil, the deputy head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a London think tank, said that Iran’s authorities were delivering a very direct message. “This could mark the apex of its toleration,” she said. "The system considers itself to have exhibited restraint thus far, but this execution may mark the end of that,"
ISNA, the Iranian student news agency, reported on Thursday that Iran's police head, Hossein Ashtari, had declared "the police will not show restraint in dealing with security concerns."
According to human rights organizations, more than 18,000 protesters have been arrested. Eleven of them have had their death sentences confirmed. The Revolutionary Court has tried many people on "moharebeh" charges.
Rights organizations claim the court routinely denies defendants their right to a fair trial by not allowing them to choose their attorneys and/or by concealing relevant evidence.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights attorney and ex-detainee, posted on Facebook on Tuesday that the majority of those facing charges do so in revolutionary courts that lack legitimacy and do not have access to legal representation.
In a report published last month, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Elthawy, stated that 21 people were at risk of obtaining death sentences as a result of the protests.
“Two months into the popular uprising and three years on from the November 2019 protests, the crisis of impunity prevailing in Iran is enabling the Iranian authorities to not only continue carrying out mass killings, but also to escalate the use of the death penalty as a tool of political repression,” Ms. Elthawy said in the report.
In a statement quoted by Amnesty, 227 Iranian legislators called on the court to "show no mercy" to protestors by swiftly imposing death sentences against them as a "lesson" to others. Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, the head of the judiciary, has frequently pushed for expedited trials and sentencing.
One of the strongest displays of popular protest in Iran in decades came to a gloomy finish with the execution of Mr. Shekari on the final day of three days of statewide protests.
The attacks occurred just days after the country's attorney general, Mohammad Javad Montazeri, declared that the country's feared morality police had been "abolished," as reported by the state-run news media. The government has made no statements either way.
For a long time, Iran has been recognized as one of the world's leading executioners. According to Amnesty International, the Iranian government executed at least 251 individuals in the first half of 2022, or around one person per day. Human rights organizations report that the number of deaths has risen well above 500, marking "the highest pace in five years."