Iran issues death penalty to protesters

Massive protests in Iran have led to thousands of arrests. Amnesty International explained that Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in what they describe as “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked [the nation].”

Five of these individuals have already been sentenced to death by the courts for “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” based on charges of arson, property destruction, and one assault case that are categorized as security violations. Official information on protestors' identities hasn’t been released, but Amnesty International determined that these unnamed individuals are likely Mohammad Ghobadlou, Manouchehr Mehman Navaz, Mahan Sedarat Madani, Mohammad Boroughani and Sahand Nourmohammad-Zadeh.

Astha Rajvanshi of Time Magazine reported that there were 15,915 protestors reported as detained, and 351 reported as killed, although these numbers can’t be verified due to reporting crackdowns in the country. She said that 227 of 290 members of the Iranian Parliament signed an open letter to the judiciary asking them to issue death sentences for the arrested protestors to “teach them a lesson” as “mohareb,” or “Enemies of God.” Despite such calls, the Parliament is not responsible for deciding these people’s fate — that’s up to the judiciary, and they have not issued a mass death sentence for all protestors.

Amnesty International fears that other arrested protestors could receive the death penalty, considering the number of protestors and the corruption in Iran’s judicial system. David Gritten of BBC explained that detainees don’t have access to lawyers during interrogation, are tortured to give false confessions, and are sentenced based on those confessions, often under nebulous Sharia laws. Rajvanshi said that lawyers often cannot defend clients with political charges and face a litany of false accusations. He also said the judiciary is heavily influenced by intelligence agents and agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp when it comes to political and religious trials.

Not all of the arrested protestors that have been sentenced have received the death penalty. Adam Pourahmadi of CNN reported that at least five others arrested during protests received lighter sentences of five to 10 years in prison for matters of “collusion to commit a crime against national security and disturbance of public peace and order.” He noted that over 1,000 protestors who have been charged, but the number is hard to verify considering reporting limits in Iran.

Technically, no executions have taken place yet. Rajvanshi said that these are the preliminary sentences passed down from the courts, and that they can be appealed to the Supreme Court. However, he noted that Iran executes more people than any other country in the world on a per-capita basis and has the second-highest number of people executed of any nation, with 6,885 people executed since 2010.

Peter Kenyon of NPR explained that such actions by the Iranian government are occurring despite backlash from the international community in the form of sanctions against top Iran officials and Iranian media. Despite government crackdowns and arrests, protests are continuing into their third month.