Iran hit with new sanctions over first protester execution

Published December 9, 2022
<p>A woman walks after the morality police shut down in a street in Tehran, Iran, Dec 6. — Reuters</p>

A woman walks after the morality police shut down in a street in Tehran, Iran, Dec 6. — Reuters

Iran was slapped with fresh sanctions on Friday after carrying out its first execution over demonstrations that have shaken the regime for nearly three months, as activists called for fresh protests.

Mohsen Shekari, 23, was hanged on Thursday after being found guilty of “moharebeh”, or “enmity against God”, following what rights groups denounced as a show trial, sparking international outcry and warnings that more hangings were imminent.

The judiciary said Shekari was arrested after blocking a Tehran street and striking a member of the Basij paramilitary force linked to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with a machete — a wound that required 13 stitches.

The Islamic republic said late on Thursday it was exercising “utmost restraint” in the face of the protests that flared over the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.

Britain on Friday announced wide-ranging sanctions against 30 targets worldwide, including officials in Iran whom it accused of pursuing “egregious sentences” against protesters.

European diplomats said the EU was also set to impose more sanctions on Iran for drone supplies to Russia and the protest crackdown.

The sanctions are expected to be formally signed off by foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Amnesty International said on Thursday it was “horrified” by Shekari’s execution, which followed a “grossly unfair sham trial”.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), said “Shekari was executed after a hasty and unfair trial without a lawyer.”

Calls for more protests

Shekari’s body was buried 24 hours after his execution in the presence of a few family members and security forces in Tehran’s Behesht-i-Zahra cemetery, the 1500tasvir social media monitor reported.

Overnight, protesters took to the street where he was first arrested, shouting, “They took away our Mohsen and brought back his body,” in a video shared by 1500tasvir.

Elsewhere, chants of “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Sepah” were heard at a demonstration in Tehran’s Chitgar district, in reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

1500tasvir said Shekari’s execution happened with such haste that his family had still been waiting to hear the outcome of his appeal.

It posted harrowing footage of what it said was the moment his family learnt the news outside their home in Tehran, with a woman doubled up in pain and grief, repeatedly screaming the name “Mohsen!”

Hamed Esmaeilion, an Iranian-Canadian activist who has organised mass protests in Berlin, Paris and other cities, said more demonstrations would be held at the weekend.

“Regardless of belief and ideology, let’s join these gatherings in protest against the brutal execution of #MohsenShekari,” he tweeted.

‘Contempt for human life’

UN rights chief Volker Turk described the execution as “very troubling and clearly designed to send a chilling effect to the rest of the protesters”.

Western governments, which had already imposed waves of sanctions against Iran over the protest crackdown, also expressed anger.

Washington called Shekari’s execution “a grim escalation” and vowed to hold the Iranian regime to account for violence “against its own people”.

Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador, a diplomatic source said, without providing further details.

“The threat of execution will not suffocate the will for freedom,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted, criticising a “perfidious summary trial”.

“The Iranian regime’s contempt for human life is boundless,” Baerbock added.

Iran has defended its response to the protests and accused the West of hypocrisy.

“In countering riots, Iran has shown utmost restraint and, unlike many Western regimes … Iran has employed proportionate and standard anti-riot methods,” its foreign ministry said.

“The same is true for the judicial process: restraint and proportionality,” it tweeted late on Thursday, adding: “Public security is a red line.”

According to rights group Amnesty International, Iran executes more people annually than any nation other than China.

IHR, which says the security forces have killed at least 458 people in the protest crackdown, this week warned that Iran had already executed more than 500 people in 2022, a sharp jump on last year’s figure.

At least a dozen other people are currently at risk of execution after being sentenced to hang in connection with the protests, human rights groups warned.

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