Iran issues new death sentences as protests enter third month
Iran issued a series of death sentences as women-led protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody entered a third month Wednesday, with clashes overnight leaving at least six people dead.
Street violence raged across Iran overnight as protests sparked by the September 16 death of Amini intensified on the anniversary of a lethal 2019 crackdown.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish origin, died in the custody of the notorious morality police after her arrest for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress code for women.
“We’ll fight! We’ll die! We’ll take back Iran!” dozens of protesters could be heard chanting around a bonfire on a Tehran street, in a video published by the 1500tasvir social media monitor.
In a widely shared video verified by AFP, security forces appear to open fire on dozens of commuters at a Tehran metro station, causing them to scramble and fall over each other on the platform.
Another verified video showed members of the security forces, including plainclothes officers, attacking women without hijab headscarves on an underground train.
Organisers of the protests have called for three days of actions to commemorate hundreds killed in the “Bloody Aban” — or Bloody November — demonstrations that erupted on November 15, 2019, after a shock decision to hike fuel prices.
Iran has struggled to contain the protests, which have seen women remove and burn their headscarves and face off with the security forces on the street.
The unrest was fanned by fury over the brutal enforcement of a mandatory hijab for women but has grown into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
It has shown no sign of abating despite the authorities’ use of lethal force and a campaign of mass arrests that have snared academics, journalists and lawyers.
– ‘Guards killed’ –
State media said “rioters” — a term used by officials to describe protesters — killed two members of the Revolutionary Guards and a member of its Basij paramilitary force on Tuesday.
Guards Colonel Reza Almasi was shot dead in Bukan, a city in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan, and another Guards member, Reza Azabar, was gunned down in Kamyaran, a Kurdish majority city in West Azerbaijan province, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The Basij member died after being hit by a Molotov cocktail in the southern city of Shiraz, it added.
Three protesters have been killed, two in Sanandaj and one in Kamyaran by direct fire from government forces, Oslo-based rights group Hengaw said.
Tensions were high Wednesday in Kamyaran for the funeral of mobile phone repair shop owner Fuad Mohammadi, one of the three who Hengaw said was killed by the security forces.
“Brother Fuad is a hero, the martyr of Kurdistan,” crowds of mourners chanted at his funeral, in videos posted on social media.
Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said on Saturday that security forces had killed at least 326 people, including 43 children and 25 women, in the crackdown on the Amini protests.
IHR said at least 15,000 people have been arrested — a figure the Iranian authorities deny.
– Fear of mass executions –
The judiciary said on Wednesday a revolutionary court handed down three more death sentences over the “riots” that have rocked the country since Amini’s death.
One was convicted of attacking police officers with his car, killing one of them, the second had stabbed a security officer, and the third tried to block traffic and spread “terror”, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported, citing the verdicts.
It came after a second death sentence was issued late Tuesday, two days after a court issued the first death sentence in connection with the protest movement that has shaken the Islamic republic’s clerical leadership.
Five others have been sentenced to prison terms of between five and 10 years”, Mizan said.
IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam strongly condemned the death sentences, saying the legal proceedings were “unfair”.
“Protesters don’t have access to lawyers in the interrogation phase, they are subjected to physical and mental torture to give false confessions and sentenced based on the confessions by the revolutionary courts,” he told AFP.
“The international community must send a strong warning to the Islamic republic that execution of protesters will have severe consequences,” said Amiry-Moghaddam.
“We fear mass executions unless the political cost of executions increases significantly,” he told AFP.