Iran hanged a man in public on Monday who had been convicted of killing two members of the security forces, the judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported, in the second execution of people involved in anti-government protests in less than a week.
Nationwide protests, in their third month, erupted after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 in the custody of morality police enforcing strict mandatory dress code laws.
The demonstrations have turned into a popular revolt by furious Iranians from all layers of society, posing one of the worst legitimacy challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution.
“Majid Reza Rahnavard was hanged in public in (the holy Shi’ite city of) Mashahd this morning … he was sentenced to death for ‘waging war against God’ after stabbing to death two members of security forces,” Mizan said.
The semi-official Fars news agency said Rahnavard killed two members of the Basij volunteer force and wounded four others. The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests.
Activists on social media criticised the execution of the 23-year-old Rahnavard as “a criminal act” by the clerical establishment to deter dissent.
“They called Rahnavard’s family at 7 a.m. (local time) and told them to go to the Behesht-e Reza cemetery. ‘We executed your child and buried him,’ they said,” widely followed activist account 1500Tasvir posted on Twitter.
The contents of the post could not be verified by Reuters.
On Thursday, Iran hanged Mohsen Shekari, who had been convicted of injuring a security guard with a knife and blocking a street in Tehran, the first such execution after thousands of arrests over the unrest, drawing a chorus of Western condemnation and sanctions.
Rights groups have said Shekari was tortured and forced to confess. Molavi Abdolhamid, an outspoken Sunni cleric in the Shi’ite-ruled Islamic Republic, has said the death sentence of Shekari violated Sharia law, according to his website.
State media published a video of a man, which it identified as Rahnavard, stabbing another man who fell against a parked motor-cycle and then stabbing another person immediately after and then running away.
Iran’s state TV showed a video in which Rahnavard said in the court that he came to hate the Basij forces after seeing them beating and killing protesters in videos posted on social media.
Amnesty International has said Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in what it called “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran”.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the bloc will agree on a “very tough” package of sanctions against Iran to show its support for peaceful protesters.
Blaming the unrest on foreign foes such as the United States and Israel, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Monday rejected Western criticism of rights abuses during the crackdown as meddling in Iran’s state matters.
The unrest has been watched closely by Israel, where a national security official said the executions did not appear to be deterring protesters and could further “box in the regime”.
“Because it can only respond with force, that has reinforced for the public the grievance being protested over,” the Israeli official told Reuters. “There is no returning this genie to the bottle.”
Rights group HRANA said that as of Sunday 488 protesters had been killed, including 68 minors. It said 62 members of the security forces had also been killed. As many as 18,259 protesters are believed to have been arrested, it said.
While the United Nations says the protests have cost more than 300 lives, a top Iranian state security body has said that 200 people, including members of the security forces, had died in the unrest.