More protesters in Iran sentenced to death as political unrest continues

People hold up images and placards during a demonstration honoring 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 has issued three more death sentences against people involved in anti-government protests following the death of a woman who allegedly violated the country’s strict headscarf rules, the judiciary’s website, Mizan Online, reported.

This comes after Iran’s Revolutionary Court on Sunday for the first time handed down the death penalty for involvement in anti-regime protests. The unnamed prisoner was charged with setting fire to a government building, disturbing public order, committing a crime against national security and being “an enemy of God and corruption on earth”.

The three prisoners with newly issued death sentences could appeal against their sentences, Reuters reported, citing Iranian state media.

It is the first time that protests in Iran are not about a specific economic or political issue, but about the Islamic Republic itself, Vali Nasr, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, told CNBC.

“A whole younger generation is challenging the rules, such as wearing a headscarf, and the government in Iran is trying to fully manage the protests,” Nasr said. “The protests are drawing a lot of US and European media attention and heavy criticism of Iran. This could potentially mean a slew of new sanctions against Iran for its crackdown.”

Iran’s judiciary announced last week that 1,024 charges had been filed in Tehran province alone in connection with the protests, Amnesty International said in a report published Wednesday.

The human rights organization added that 21 detainees have been charged with security-related crimes punishable by death, and Iranian officials are trying to expedite proceedings to publicly execute them.

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

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

Execution rates

Iran is second only to China for the highest number of recorded executions, Amnesty International reports.

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

Two distinct groups of people have taken part in the ongoing protests — those desiring a change in the regime’s strict code of conduct, and “the real troublemakers,” said Asif Ahuja, a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute.

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

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

However, there are protesters who are “not affected by the feelings or the euphoria, but they are the real troublemakers” who are causing chaos in these once peaceful protests.

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

Canada’s Trudeau cheated by misinformation

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

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the public figures who tweeted about the fake news.

The post read: “Canada condemns the Iranian regime’s barbaric decision to impose the death penalty on nearly 15,000 protesters. These brave Iranians fought for their human rights – and we remain united in support of them, and united against the heinous actions of the regimen.”

His tweet was only deleted 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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