Iran on Saturday executed two men for killing a paramilitary force member during unprecedented protests sparked by the death in custody of a young woman.
The latest hangings double the number of executions to four over the nationwide protests, which escalated since mid-September into calls for an end to Iran’s clerical regime.
Two men were put to death in December, sparking global outrage and new Western sanctions against Iran.
Judicial news agency Mizan Online reported, “Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, the main perpetrators of the crime that led to the martyrdom of Ruhollah Ajamian, were hanged this morning.”
Prosecutors said the 27-year-old militiaman was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi.
The executions come in defiance of a campaign by international rights groups for the lives of the two men to be spared. Karami’s father had also begged the judiciary not to kill his son.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), said both men “were subjected to torture, sentenced after sham trials… without the minimum standards for due process.”
Like other activists, he called for stronger international action after the latest executions.
On Twitter, Amiry-Moghaddam specifically urged “new and stronger sanctions against individuals and entities.”
Authorities have arrested thousands of people in the wave of demonstrations that began with the September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22.
The Iranian Kurdish woman had been arrested by morality police for allegedly breaching the regime’s strict dress code for women.
– Fear for others –
Ajamian belonged to the Basij paramilitary force linked to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
He died in Karaj, west of Tehran, on November 3 after being attacked with “knives, stones, fists, kicks” and dragged along a street, a judiciary spokesman said at the time.
The court of first instance had sentenced Karami and Hosseini to death in early December, Mizan said.
On Tuesday the Supreme Court upheld the sentence.
Karami’s parents had in December issued a video pleading with the judiciary to spare his life.
“I respectfully ask the judiciary, I beg you please, I ask you… to remove the death penalty from my son’s case,” said Mashallah Karami, describing his son as a former national karate team member.
Karami’s father told Iranian media that a family lawyer had not been able to access his son’s case file.
Mohamad Aghasi, whom the family wanted to handle the case, wrote on Twitter that Karami had not been allowed to have a final meeting with his family and had foregone food and water in protest.
IHR gave Karami’s age as 22. Hossein was 39, according to another Norway-based rights group, Hengaw.
They were among 14 people courts have sentenced to death over the unrest, according to an AFP count based on official information.
Four have now been executed, two others have had their sentences confirmed by the Supreme Court, six are awaiting new trials and two others can appeal.
Dozens of other protesters face charges punishable by death, IHR said in late December.
British actor of Iranian origin Nazanin Boniadi, an ambassador for Amnesty International in the United Kingdom, said on Twitter that the “political cost of Iran executions” must increase.
Foreign nations must withdraw their ambassadors from Iran and call for a moratorium on executions and state violence against peaceful dissent, New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said.
“We are mourning as a nation,” prominent US-based dissident Masih Alinejad said in a Twitter post. “Help us save others.”
– ‘Even more hardliners’ –
Nearly four months into the authorities’ crackdown on the unrest triggered by Amini’s death, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday appointed a new police chief.
General Ahmad-Reza Radan took over from Hossein Ashtari, said a statement posted on the leader’s official website.
Khamenei ordered the police to “improve its capabilities”.
Iran expert Mehrzad Boroujerdi said before the announcement there had been “rumours that Khamenei has severely criticised the performance of Hossein Ashtari”.
Boroujerdi, vice provost and dean of Missouri S&T’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, told AFP on Wednesday that he expected people like Ashtari to be replaced by “even more hardliners to maintain a tight grip of the security forces”.
The latest executions were the first linked to the demonstrations in almost a month.
Iranian officials describe the protests as “riots” and accuse hostile foreign powers and opposition groups of stoking the unrest.
On December 12 Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, was hanged publicly from a crane after his conviction for killing two members of the security forces, Mizan reported.
Rahnavard’s execution came four days after Mohsen Shekari, also 23, was put to death in connection with the wounding of a security forces member