Middle East

Protesters gather at Iranian prison in attempt to stop ‘imminent executions’

Protesters have gathered outside a prison near the Iranian capital in an attempt to prevent the rumoured imminent execution of two young detainees found guilty of running over a police officer in a car during protests in November.

Footage posted on social media showed the mother of one of the men, 22-year-old Mohammad Ghobadlou, pleading for her son outside Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj, a satellite city west of Tehran. She said it had been established that her son had not been at the scene when the police officer died.

Human rights activists had raised the alarm after Ghobadlou and fellow prisoner Mohammad Boroughani were taken to solitary confinement, which is often a preliminary step before execution. Their lawyers are claiming the two men require a retrial in the supreme court.

Four people have been executed so far in relation to the protest movement that has swept Iran since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in September. Some warnings of imminent executions have proved false, possibly because protests around specific prisoners have unnerved the authorities.

Iranian ambassadors in Europe are still being summoned over the execution of two men on Saturday, and Iran is now having to weigh up whether to ignore the international condemnation over the lack of due process, including prisoners being denied access to lawyers of their choice.

On Monday, a daughter of the former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was sentenced to five years over “propaganda” and “acts against national security” for encouraging people to join the protests.

Faezeh Hashemi, 60, a former lawmaker and women’s rights activist, was charged with “collusion against national security, propaganda against the Islamic republic and disturbing public order by participating in illegal gatherings”, her lawyer said.

The repression, which is seen by the Iranian authorities as an appropriate response to injuries inflicted on security officers during the protests, is stifling any chances of the talks of a renewed nuclear deal, pushing part of the Iranian regime to look for closer relations with Russia as an alternative to the west.

Over the weekend the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, attended memorials in Toronto for the 176 people killed on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 that was shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on 8 January 2020.

Trudeau said the Tehran regime did not represent its people, a position that takes him closer to expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada, one of the key demands of the protestors in the large and increasingly unified Iranian diaspora.

The execution of two men, Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini, on Saturday led to protests around the world, but no immediate sanctions.

The French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, described the executions as “appalling”, adding that France reiterated its opposition to the death penalty, in all places and in all circumstances. French senators have also tabled a resolution calling on the EU to end nuclear negotiations with Iran; designate the Revolutionary Guardsas a terrorist organisation; as well as several other measures.

The Canadian foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, also denounced the executions, saying: “Two more lives lost to senseless executions from the Iranian regime.” Calling on Iran to put an end to such brutal and inhumane sentences, Joly expressed solidarity with Iranians who have a right to their human rights.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and human rights activist in Iran, said due process had not been allowed, turning the executions into “open murder”.

The Iranian foreign ministry rejected the criticism, saying: “Remarks of self-styled defenders of human rights are replete with racist thoughts.”

Iranian judicial news agencies reported that Saleh Mirhashemi, a karate champion, had been sentenced to death, along with two others. Amir Nasr Azadani, a former football player, was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution meanwhile slammed the door on relaxing rules around the hijab, saying in a lengthy statement that western societies had destroyed the family by promoting female sexuality. “Covering up causes a woman to be recognised in society by her thoughts and personality, not by her body and beauty,” it said. “This is the greatest service that religions, especially Islam, have given to women, which obliges her to observe hijab so that her dignity is preserved and she is not sold or passed around like a commodity.”


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