More protesters in Iran sentenced to death as political unrest persists

People hold up images and placards during a demonstration in honor of Jina Mahsa Amini and the other protesters killed at The Place Joachim du Bellay in Paris, on November 13, 2022.

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Iran’s judiciary issued three more death sentences to people who were involved in anti-government protests following the death of a woman who allegedly broke the country’s strict headscarf rules, the judiciary’s website Mizan Online reported. 

This comes after Iran’s Revolutionary Court issued its first death sentence on Sunday due to involvement in anti-regime protests. The unnamed prisoner was handed the charge after being accused of setting fire to a government building, disturbing public order, committing a crime against national security, and for being “an enemy of God and corruption on Earth.”

The three prisoners with newly issued death sentences would be able to appeal their verdicts, Reuters reported, citing Iranian state media.

It’s the first time that protests in Iran are not about a specific economic or political issue, but the Islamic Republic itself, Vali Nasr, professor at the school of advanced international studies at Johns Hopkins University, told CNBC. 

“A whole younger generation is challenging the rules like wearing a headscarf and the government in Iran has its hands fully trying to manage the protests,” Nasr said. “The protests are beginning a great deal of American and European media attention, and severe criticism of Iran. This could potentially bring a whole new set of sanctions on Iran for its crackdown.”  

Iran’s judiciary announced last week that 1,024 indictments had been issued in relation to the protests in the Tehran province alone, Amnesty International said in a report published on Wednesday. 

The human rights organization added that 21 detainees have been charged with security-related offenses that are punishable by death, and Iranian officials are attempting to rush the proceedings to execute them in public. 

Protests against the Iranian government erupted two months ago when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being detained by the country’s “morality police” for inappropriate attire. Iranian authorities claimed no wrongdoing and say Amini died of a heart attack; but her family, and masses of Iranians, accuse the government of a cover-up.

Women and students have played a pivotal role in the protests, waving and burning their headscarves in solidarity to Amini and to retaliate against the country’s strict dress code for women. 

Execution rates

Right behind China, Iran holds second place for the most number of recorded executions, Amnesty International reported.

Iran Human Rights reported that least 333 people were executed in 2021, and Amnesty said 14 of those were women.

Two different groups of people have participated in the ongoing protests — those that are yearning for a change in the regime’s strict code of conduct, and “the real troublemakers,” said Asif Ahuja, senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute. 

Ahuja said the ongoing protests are based on a very “legitimate demand” from women who genuinely want the mandatory headscarf rule to be abolished. “They just want to forget the state and live the way the rest of the world lives.” 

Iran warns U.S. against supporting protesters there

“We are starting to see young boys and girls posting pictures of them kissing on the streets … This was never heard of … It shows the intensity of the protests, they just want to be free,” Ahuja added. 

However, there are protesters who “are not swayed by the sentiments or the euphoria, but they are the real troublemakers” that are inciting chaos at these once peaceful protests. 

When asked if the Iranian court would go through with these executions or if they are empty threats, Ahuja said that they will be carried out and the government is in fact “very generous in doing it.” 

Canada’s Trudeau duped by misinformation

Earlier this week, a false claim that Iran had sentenced 15,000 protesters to death circulated widely on social media. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the public figures that tweeted about the false news.

The post said “Canada denounces the Iranian regime’s barbaric decision to impose the death penalty on nearly 15,000 protestors. These brave Iranians were fighting for their human rights — and we continue to stand united in support of them, and united against the regime’s heinous actions.”

His tweet was only taken down 11 hours later, but had already been shared by thousands. 

— CNBC’s Lee Ying Shan and NBC’s Ben Goggin contributed to this report.

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