Protests greet visit of 'executioner' Rouhani to France

A Femen activist hangs from a bridge to protest Rouhani's visit.
A Femen activist hangs from a bridge to protest Rouhani's visit.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Hundreds of protesters on Thursday condemned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit to France, with a Femen activist dramatising a surge in executions in Iran by staging a mock hanging on a bridge near the Eiffel Tower.

"Welcome Rouhani, executioner of freedom," read a banner on the Paris bridge from which the woman was suspended in a mock noose.

Femen, an activist group that originated in Ukraine with an emphasis on feminist issues, has won world notoriety for its topless stunts.

Across the city, some 800 protesters waving Iranian flags joined a 4km march to Les Invalides, the military complex that includes Napoleon's tomb where Rouhani was feted with military honours earlier in the day.

At a rally to kick off the march, speaker after speaker condemned Rouhani's human rights record, noting that some 2,000 people have been executed in Iran since he came to power three years ago, as well as Teheran's alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


Maryam Radjavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (CNRI), condemned Rouhani's "facade of moderation".

"As a top official for 37 years in the religious dictatorship in Iran, Rouhani is implicated in all the atrocities of this regime and as a result should be brought to justice for crimes against humanity," she told the crowd.

Shaghayegh Azimi, a 23-year-old refugee, told AFP her parents, both human rights activists, have been in and out of prison in Iran for the past eight years.

"This regime is not moderate. They tortured my mother," she said.

Jewish groups including the French Union of Jewish Employers held a smaller protest outside the French parliament.

"In Iran in 2016, a person is executed every eight hours," read one banner.

Another depicted the red carpet outside the presidential Elysee Palace turning into a sea of blood, and read: "Blood-red carpet for Rouhani, Don't sweep human rights under the rug."

French Green MEP and veteran activist Jose Bove told the crowd: "Human rights must be put ahead of business interests," adding: "Iranians should be able to live in a secular state."