Iranian authorities have executed 55 people so far this year as part of a surging use of the death penalty to create fear amid protests that have been shaking the country, Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on Friday.
Meanwhile, rights group Amnesty International said three young people sentenced to death over protests — the youngest aged 18 — had been subjected to “gruesome torture” in detention.
IHR said it has confirmed at least 55 executions in the first 26 days of this year.
Four people have been executed on charges related to the protests, while the majority of those hanged — 37 convicts — were executed for drug-related offenses, IHR said.
At least 107 people are still at risk of execution over the demonstrations after being sentenced to death or charged with capital crimes, the group added.
With Iran’s use of the death penalty surging in recent years, IHR said that “every execution by the Islamic Republic is political,” as the main purpose “is to create societal fear and terror.”
“To stop the state execution machine, no execution should be tolerated, whether they be political or non-political,” IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said.
A lack of reaction from the international community risked lowering “the political cost of executing protesters,” he added.
Activists have accused Iran of using the death penalty as an instrument of intimidation to quell the protests, which erupted in September last year following the death of the Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly contravening the country’s dress code for women.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said Iran’s “weaponization of criminal procedures” to punish demonstrators “amounts to state-sanctioned killing.”
Three men sentenced to death last month had been subjected to torture “including floggings, electric shocks, being hung upside down and death threats at gunpoint,” Amnesty International said on Friday.
They were convicted of inciting arson and vandalism during protests in September last year in Mazandaran Province, Amnesty said in a statement.
Javad Rouhi, 31, was tortured and “sexually assaulted by having ice put on his testicles,” while Mehdi Mohammadifard, 19, was kept for one week in solitary confinement in a mice-infested cell and was raped, leading to “anal injuries and rectal bleeding, which required hospitalization,” the statement said.
Arshia Takdastan, 18, “was subjected to beatings and death threats, including having a gun pointed at his head if he did not ‘confess’ in front of a video camera,” it said.
IHR and other rights groups have yet to publish figures on executions in Iran for last year, although IHR said last month that more than 500 people had been hanged — the highest figure in five years — while at least 333 people were executed in 2021, a 25 percent increase compared with 267 in 2020.
As well as arresting thousands of people, Iranian security forces have also used what campaigners describe as lethal force to crack down on the protests.
Security forces have killed at least 488 people, including 64 aged under 18, in the nationwide protests, IHR said, according to its latest count.
Mohsen Shekari, 23, was executed in Tehran on Dec. 8 for wounding a member of the security forces, while Majidreza Rahnavard, also 23, was hanged in public in Mashhad on Dec. 12 on charges of killing two members of the security forces with a knife.
On Jan. 7, Iran executed Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini for killing a paramilitary force member in November.
In another high-profile execution, Iran said on Jan. 14 that it had executed British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari after he was sentenced to death on charges of spying for Britain.
He had been arrested more than two years earlier.
Analysts said that demonstrations have subsided since November, but the protest movement still remains a challenge to the Islamic republic under Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
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