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Iran Executes Second Man Linked to Protests


A person in the Cypriot capital Nicosia checks a mobile phone on December 12, 2022, displaying a Tweet about the execution announced by Iranian authorities of Majidreza Rahnavard, the second capital punishment linked to nearly three months of protests.[AFP]

Iran on Monday said it carried out its second execution of a prisoner linked to the nationwide protests that began in September after the death of a young woman detained by the country's morality police for failing to properly cover her hair with a hijab.

The Mizan news agency run by Iran's judiciary said Majidreza Rahnavard was publicly hanged from a construction crane in the city of Mashhad as a warning to others.

Rahnavard was accused of fatally stabbing two security force members last month in Mashhad after he became angry that authorities were killing protesters. The demonstrations erupted across the country after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, while in the custody of authorities.

Activists say Iran has sentenced at least a dozen people to death in closed-door hearings and that at least 488 people have been killed during nearly three months of protests. Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has been monitoring the protests, said that another 18,200 people have been detained.

The first man sentenced to death in connection with the demonstrations was executed last week.

The U.S. State Department condemned Rahnavard's execution.

"We denounce this draconian treatment in the strongest terms," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

He said the harsh sentences are meant to intimidate Iran's people, and "they simply just underscore how much the Iranian leadership actually fears its own people."

The United Nations' human rights office said it was appalled by Rahnavard's execution, adding, "We fear for the lives of other protesters sentenced to death. The use of the death penalty is not consistent with right to life."

Mizan published a collage of images of Rahnavard hanging from the crane, his hands and feet bound, a black bag over his head. Masked security force members stood guard in front of concrete and metal barriers that held back a crowd that watched the execution.

Footage aired on state TV showed a man alleged to be Rahnavard chasing another man around a street corner on November 17, then standing over him and stabbing him after he fell against a parked motorbike. Another clip showed the same assailant stabbing another man immediately after.

The Mizan report identified the two victims as "student" Basij, paramilitary volunteers under Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The Basij have been deployed in major cities, attacking and detaining protesters, who in many cases have fought back.

Mizan said Rahnavard was convicted in Mashhad's Revolutionary Court of "waging war against God." The tribunals have been internationally criticized for not allowing those on trial to pick their own lawyers or even see the evidence against them.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers Monday approved new sanctions on Iran. The targets included state broadcaster IRIB for airing what it said were forced confessions from detainees, army commander-in-chief Abdolrahim Mousavi and regional commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters that Iran's executions were "a blatant attempt at intimidation."

"We are making clear that we stand beside innocent people in Iran," Baerbock said. "A system that treats its people in this way cannot expect to continue to have halfway normal relations with the European Union."

In return, Iran imposed sanctions Monday on dozens of EU and British officials, saying they had supported and instigated the unrest in Iran.

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