Iran triggers outrage with first hanging over Mahsa Amini protests

At least a dozen other people are currently at risk of execution after being sentenced to hang in connection with the protests. PHOTO: AFP

TEHERAN – Iran faced international condemnation on Friday, a day after carrying out its first known execution over the protests that have shaken the regime for nearly three months, leading to calls for even more demonstrations.

Demonstrations have swept Iran for nearly three months since Ms Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody after her arrest by the morality police in Teheran for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict hijab dress code for women.

Mohsen Shekari, 23, was hanged on Thursday after being convicted over the blocking of a Teheran street and the wounding of a paramilitary member on Sept 25, in a legal process that rights groups denounced as a show trial.

The judiciary said the 23-year-old was arrested after striking a member of the Basij – a paramilitary force linked to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – with a machete, a wound that required 13 stitches.

He was convicted in November of “moharebeh”, or “enmity against God” – a capital offence in the Islamic republic.

The announcement sparked an international outcry and warnings from human rights groups that more hangings were imminent.

Rights group Amnesty International said it was “horrified” by the execution, and called Shekari’s trial “grossly unfair” and a “sham”.

“His execution exposes the inhumanity of Iran’s so-called justice system”, where many others face “the same fate”, the group said.

Mr Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), urged a strong international reaction, otherwise “we will face mass execution of protesters”.

“Mohsen Shekari was executed after a hasty and unfair trial without a lawyer,” he said.

Iran’s Fars news agency carried a video report of Shekari talking about the attack while in detention, which IHR described as a “forced confession” with his face “visibly injured”.

Calls for more protests

Shekari’s body was buried 24 hours after his execution in the presence of a few family members and security forces in Teheran’s Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, the 1500tasvir social media monitor reported.

His execution has triggered fresh protests and calls for more demonstrations.

Overnight, protesters took to the street where Shekari was arrested, shouting, “They took away our Mohsen and brought back his body”, in a video shared by 1500tasvir.

Elsewhere, chants of “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Sepah” were heard at a demonstration in Teheran’s Chitgar district, in reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Mr Hamed Esmaeilion, an Iranian-Canadian activist who has organised mass protests in Berlin, Paris and other cities, said more demonstrations would be held at the weekend.

“Regardless of belief and ideology, let’s join these gatherings in protest against the brutal execution of #MohsenShekari,” he tweeted.

‘Boundless contempt’

1500tasvir said Shekari’s execution happened with such haste that his family had still been waiting to hear the outcome of his appeal.

It posted harrowing footage of what it said was the moment his family learnt the news outside their home in Teheran, with a woman doubled up in pain and grief, repeatedly screaming the name “Mohsen!”

Western governments echoed the anger of rights groups.

Washington called Shekari’s execution “a grim escalation” and vowed to hold the Iranian regime to account for violence “against its own people”.

In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed indignation at “this unacceptable repression” that, she said, will not quash the protesters’ demands.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had a similar message. “The threat of execution will not suffocate the will for freedom,” she tweeted after what she called a “perfidious summary trial”.

“The Iranian regime’s contempt for human life is boundless.”

Germany also summoned the Iranian ambassador, a diplomatic source said later on Thursday, but did not provide any further details about the summoning.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly expressed outrage and urged the world not to ignore “the abhorrent violence committed by the Iranian regime against its own people”.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said “we deplore (the) hanging of” Shekari.

According to Amnesty International, Iran executes more people annually than any nation other than China.

IHR, which says security forces have killed at least 458 people in the protest crackdown, this week said Iran had already executed more than 500 people in 2022, a sharp jump on the previous year’s figure. At least a dozen other people are currently at risk of execution after being sentenced to hang in connection with the protests, human rights groups warned. REUTERS

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