Iranian Faces Death Penalty After Trash Bin Set On Fire In Tehran

Iran's judiciary has charged a man with setting fire to a trash can with "waging war against God," an offense that is punishable by death.

The state judiciary's Mizan news agency quoted a prosecutor's representative as saying on November 7 that Sahand Nourmohammadzadeh caused the blockage of a highway in Tehran "by tearing down the fences of the highway and setting fire to trash cans and tires."

Nourmohammadzadeh has rejected the allegations, saying a protest took place in front of his business in Tehran when the bin was set ablaze, but that he was not a participant and had no intention of creating a disturbance.

The news comes after 227 lawmakers from Iran's 290-seat, hard-liner-led parliament urged the judiciary to approve the death sentence for some protesters arrested amid a wave of demonstrations across the country sparked by the death of a young woman in September while in police custody for allegedly wearing a headscarf improperly.

Iran's chief justice, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, subsequently told a meeting of the Supreme Judicial Council on November 7 that he agreed with parliament's request and that some protesters can be executed under the Qisas principle, or retaliatory law.

Earlier, Mohseni-Ejei asked judges responsible for dealing with the cases of those arrested at the protests to refrain from issuing "weak sentences" to the people he called the "main elements" of the protests.

Hard-line cleric Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, also addressed judiciary officials regarding the arrested protesters, saying that "rioters" should be dealt with in such a way that "there would be no desire to riot again."

Human rights groups have decried the push for harsh sentences, noting that political prisoners in Iran are already deprived of many of their rights, including access to their chosen defense attorney.

Earlier, a group of 40 Iranian lawyers published a statement saying the judicial system "has become one of the authoritarian forces with the presence of non-independent and disobedient officials, and because of this, a corrupt network has ruled the country's destiny."

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 5, at least 318 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 49 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

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