Iran carries out first known execution over anti-government protests

Uncle of Mohsen Shekari, who was convicted of ‘waging war against God’, says family have not been told location of body

Iran has conducted the first known execution in relation to the anti-government protests that have rocked the country, hanging a man who was found guilty by a revolutionary court of “waging war against God”.

Mohsen Shekari was accused of blocking a street and wounding a member of the pro-regime Basij militia on 25 September, during the early phase of the protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

State media published a video of what it said was Shekari’s confession, which showed him with a bruise on his right cheek.

His family waited outside the jail where he was executed, seeking news of his fate.

Shekari’s uncle Mahmoud Shekari told the Guardian from Denmark that authorities “have started a familiar game to torture his family” by not releasing his body, a complaint that tallies with the experiences of other families of dead protesters.

He said the family had been sent to two cemeteries, but that when they arrived at the locations, they were told the body was not there.

The uncle said Shekari’s mother had been repeatedly warned not to publicise her son’s arrest, and that even when she saw her son the night before his hanging, she was ordered to remain silent about his fate.

Shekari had not been allowed a lawyer of his own choosing, and signs of torture were visible on his face, his uncle said.

Describing the incident that led to his arrest, the uncle said: “Mohsen was athletic and strong; when he saw the security forces attacking the protesters, he removed the guardrail from the side of the highway and placed it in the middle of the street to block the security forces’ way.”

Shekari worked in a cafe and was the family’s main wage earner, Mahmoud said.


The Mizan news agency, run by Iran’s judiciary, said Shekari had been convicted in Tehran’s revolutionary court, which typically holds closed-door cases, on 1 November.

The court found that he had used a weapon “with the intention of killing, causing terror and disturbing the order and security of society”. He appealed against the verdict but it was upheld by the supreme court on 20 November.

Rights groups have said Shekari was tortured and forced to confess. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, called for a strong international reaction, “otherwise we will be facing daily executions of protesters”.

He tweeted that Shekari had been “sentenced to death in show trials without any due process” and said: “This execution must have rapid practical consequences internationally.”

In one of the first international reactions, Austria’s foreign ministry said the execution was “disproportional and inhumane” and urged the Iranian government to “stop all further executions” related to the protests.

The British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said he was “outraged” by news of the execution, while Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said the Iranian regime’s “inhumanity knows no bounds”.

“Mohsen Shekari was sentenced and executed in a perfidious summary procedure because he disagreed with the regime,” Baerbock said. “But the threat of execution will not suffocate people’s desire for freedom.”

As many as 21 people have been charged with sentences that are likely to carry the death penalty. Hundreds of others have been killed during the protests.

On Monday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a branch of the military, praised the judiciary for its tough stance and urged it to move swiftly and decisively to issue judgments for defendants accused of “crimes against the security of the nation and Islam”.

Five more people were sentenced to death on Tuesday over the killing of a Basij member, prompting condemnation from Amnesty International, which said in a statement: “The Iranian authorities must immediately quash all death sentences, refrain from seeking the imposition of the death penalty and drop all charges against those arrested in connection with their peaceful participation in protests.”

Interviewed in the reformist newspaper Etemad, Taghi Azadarmaki, a sociology professor, said: “If the system punishes the protesters, people’s behaviour will become radical and their patience will end. The news of issuing death sentences and long-term prisons is dangerous. If this trend continues, people will tend towards fundamentalist changes.”

In a move to engage with students, who have been at the heart of the protests, senior politicians went to the campus at the University of Tehran on the annual students’ day this week to try to launch a dialogue. However, the mayor of Tehran was confronted by students who accused the regime of corruption and lies. He angrily shouted at them when a group walked out demanding the release of their fellow students.

Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, was equally uncompromising, arriving to address an almost entirely male audience during an event held amid tight security at the university. He claimed the protests had nothing to do with economic or cultural grievances, but were a plot by the US to bring down Iran.


Patrick Wintour and Maryam Foumani

The GuardianTramp

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