Iran Revokes Death Sentences Of Three Protesters But Confirms Two Others

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iran's Supreme Court has revoked the death sentence handed to three defendants who allegedly played a role in the murder of a security officer but confirmed the death penalty of two others in the case.

Amir Hashemi, the the Supreme Court's public relations director, announced on Twitter on January 3 that based on the court's decision, the death sentences for Hamid Qarahasanlou, Hossein Mohammadi and Reza Aria were being revoked due to a flaw in the investigation.

However, the court rejected appeals by Mohammad Mahdi Karmi and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, confirming their death sentences stemming from the same incident.

Authorities have accused 16 protesters of causing the death of a member of the Basij paramilitary force during an anti-government demonstration. All of the accused deny the charges, saying they were being targeted for their part in the nationwide protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

Five of those accused were handed death sentences, while the other 11, including three minors, were given lengthy jail terms.

The incident happened on November 3 in Karaj, the capital of Alborz Province, when mourners were paying tribute to slain protester Hadis Najafi at a cemetery to mark 40 days -- the end of the official mourning period -- after she was killed during the protests.

Prosecutors say Ruhollah Ajamian, 27, was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to Najafi.

Human rights organizations have condemned the death sentences of protesters in Iran after what they have termed "sham trials" that were held via three hearings over six days.

Among those sentenced to death in the case was Qarahasanlou, a doctor whose brother has said officers severely tortured his sibling and sister-in-law while in custody.

The lawyer of Mohammad Hosseini, whose death sentence has been confirmed by the Supreme Court, said his client also was tortured until he confessed to playing a part in the murder of a security officer.

Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani said in a tweet on December 18 that during a meeting his client told him he had been tied up and tortured by agents to secure a confession.

"He was tortured with his eyes closed and his hands and feet tied. They kicked his head until he fainted and injured different parts of his body with an iron rod and an electroshock weapon," Ardakani said.

Earlier, the opposition activist collective 1500tasvir reported that Mohammad Mehdi Karami, the other accused in the case whose death sentence has been confirmed, said in a meeting with his family that officers beat him so badly during his arrest that they left his body in the street, thinking he was dead. They realized he wasn't just as they were leaving.

Since the death of Amini while she was in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly, Iranians have flooded streets across the country to protest against a lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of support in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of January 2, at least 516 people had been killed during the unrest, including 70 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran exceeded 500 last year.

Iran has already admitted to executing two men for crimes allegedly linked to the protests.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda