Rights Groups Appeal for Global Action to Stop Iran's Death Sentences for Protesters
By Michael Lipin November 16, 2022
International human rights groups have called for urgent global pressure on Iran to stop handing death sentences to jailed antigovernment protesters and to refrain from executing any of the detainees.
Iran's judiciary has said five people detained in the government's crackdown on a two-month protest movement have been sentenced to death since Sunday. The five detainees, none of whom was named, include three people who were handed the sentences Wednesday.
In a message sent to VOA, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, said the Iranian government is using the death penalty to try to scare the public into once again fearing its authority. Many Iranians have overcome such fears, joining mostly peaceful nationwide protests against 43 years of Islamist rule and defying repeated violent crackdowns by security forces since the protests began in September.
"The international community should send an extremely strong signal that the execution of even one protester will have severe consequences," Amiry-Moghaddam said.
In a statement released Wednesday, London-based rights group Amnesty International said it has documented the court cases of 21 named individuals detained in the crackdown and charged with "enmity against god" and "corruption on earth," offenses punishable by death.
The group said five of those individuals appear to have received the five death sentences announced by the judiciary, based on what the judiciary revealed about the charges that led to those sentences. Amnesty International named the five men as Mohammad Boroughani, Mohammad Ghobadlou, Mahan Sedarat Madani, Manouchehr Mehman-Navaz and Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh.
"Amnesty International is urging all governments with embassies in Iran to immediately send high level observers to all ongoing trials where defendants are at risk of being sentenced to death," the advocacy group said. It noted that Iranian authorities have said such trials will be public.
VOA sent emails to the representatives of governments from Britain, France and Germany, asking if they plan to request permission from Iranian authorities to send observers to the trials of detained protesters facing serious charges punishable by the death penalty. All three have embassies in Tehran but did not immediately provide a comment.
The Iranian judiciary's Mizan news agency said that one of the individuals sentenced to death Wednesday was accused of killing a policeman and wounding several others by running them over with a car, while a second individual was accused of stabbing a security agent and setting fire to a government building and a third individual was accused of blocking traffic and damaging public property. It noted that the sentences were preliminary and can be appealed.
Amnesty International said it obtained information indicating that the 21 individuals at risk of the death penalty have been denied their rights to fair trials. It said Iranian authorities have denied them access to a lawyer of their own choosing and denied them the rights to be presumed innocent, remain silent and not incriminate themselves.
Iran's judiciary said earlier this month that 1,024 indictments have been issued in relation to protests in Tehran province. Hundreds of other indictments have been issued against protesters elsewhere in the country. Rights groups say those charged are among thousands of protesters who have been arrested nationwide.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told a Wednesday press briefing that the U.S. continues to be deeply concerned about reports of mass arrests, "sham trials" and death sentences for Iranian protesters. He noted that the U.N. Human Rights Council will hold a special session Nov. 24 to address the worsening human rights situation in Iran and said the U.S. strongly supported requests by Germany and Iceland to convene the meeting.
"The Iranian government needs to end its state-sponsored violence against women and to allow peaceful protest," Patel said. "The U.S. is going to continue to voice our support for human rights and our support for the Iranian people."
The nationwide protests began in response to the Sept. 16 death while in police custody of 22-year-old Iranian Mahsa Amini, whom Iran's morality police had arrested days earlier for allegedly not covering her hair fully enough with a hijab. Iran's Islamist rulers long have demanded that women cover their hair in public in accordance with strict Islamic dress codes.
The protests against Amini's death quickly evolved into a broader call by many Iranians for freedom and regime change.
Jason Kung, Canadian foreign ministry spokesperson, said in an email to VOA that Ottawa also is deeply concerned by reports that an Iranian court has sentenced up to five protestors to death for participating in recent demonstrations. He said reports that additional similar sentences and harsh penalties are being prepared against other arbitrarily detained protestors are disturbing.
"We call on Iran to stop escalating tensions and to refrain from committing further acts of violence against its own population," Kung said. "We urge Iran to meaningfully address the grievances of all of its citizens without discrimination and to protect and respect their right to peaceful protest."
Canada cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012, while the U.S. did the same at the start of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, urged U.N. Human Rights Council members to use next week's special session on Iran to "urgently establish an investigative and accountability mechanism to address this all-out-assault on the right to life and other human rights."
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