Iran said Thursday it executed a prisoner convicted for a crime allegedly committed during the country's ongoing nationwide protests, the first such death penalty carried out by Tehran.
The execution comes as other detainees also face the possibility of the death penalty for their involvement in the protests, which began in mid-September, first as an outcry against Iran's morality police. The protests have since expanded into one of the most serious challenges to Iran's theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Activists warn that others could also be put to death in the near future, saying that at least a dozen people so far have received death sentences over their involvement in the demonstrations.
The “execution of #MohsenShekari must be me(t) with STRONG reactions otherwise we will be facing daily executions of protesters,” wrote Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based activist group Iran Human Rights. “This execution must have rapid practical consequences internationally.”
Iran's Mizan news agency reported the execution of the man, identified as Mohsen Shekari. It accused the man of blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a member of the security forces with a machete. The member of the forces required stitches for his wounds, the agency said.
The Mizan report also alleged that Shekari said he had been offered money by an acquaintance to attack the security forces. Iran's government for months has been trying to allege — without offering evidence — that foreign countries have fomented the unrest in the country, rather than Iranian citizens angry over the collapse of the country's finances, heavy-handed policing and the nation's other woes.
Mizan said Shekari had been arrested on Sept. 25, then convicted on Nov. 20 on the charge of "moharebeh," a Farsi word meaning “waging war against God.” That charge has been levied against others in the decades since 1979 and carries the death penalty. Mizan said an appeal by Shekari's lawyer against the sentence had failed before his execution.
The Mizan news agency, run by the country’s judiciary, said Shekari had been convicted in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, which typically holds closed-door cases that have been internationally criticized for not allowing those on trial to pick their own lawyers or even see the evidence against them.
After his execution, Iranian state television aired a heavily edited package showing the courtroom and parts of Shekari’s trial, presided over by Judge Abolghassem Salavati.
Salavati faces U.S. sanctions for overseeing cases “in which journalists, attorneys, political activists and members of Iran’s ethnic and religious minority groups were penalized for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, lashes and even execution,” according to the U.S. Treasury.
Iran has been rocked by protests since the Sept. 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being detained by the country's morality police. At least 475 people have been killed in the demonstrations amid a heavy-handed security crackdown, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that's been monitoring the protests since they began. Over 18,000 have been detained by authorities.
Iran is one of the world's top executioners. It typically executes prisoners by hanging. Already, Amnesty International said it obtained a document signed by one senior Iranian police commander asking an 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.'”