Iran sentences three more to death, as Pope Francis condemns executions
Iran has sentenced three more people to the death penalty, as Pope Francis condemned its use of executions against anti-government demonstrators.
Saleh Mirhashemi, Majid Kazemi and Saeed Yaghoubi were sentenced to death on charges of “moharebeh” - or waging “war against God” - the judiciary said on Monday.
They were accused of killing three security officers during protests in Isfahan, central Iran, on 16 November.
Two others were jailed over the incident, of which one was footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani, whose feared execution was denounced in December by footballers’ union Fifpro. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Tehran was strongly criticised over the weekend after it hanged to death two protesters, Mohammad Mahdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, who were found guilty of killing a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's volunteer Basij force at an anti-government demonstration.
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Two others, Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard, were executed in December for alleged attacks on security forces.
Death penalty 'fuels thirst for vengeance'
Women-led demonstrations rocked Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September in police custody, after she was arrested for allegedly wearing her headscarf “improperly”.
Amnesty International has said that Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 26 people in relation to the protests, in what it called "sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran".
On Monday, protesters gathered outside a prison in the city of Karaj in an attempt to prevent the executions of two young men.
Elsewhere, Pope Francis commented on Iran’s execution of demonstrators for the first time during his annual New Year’s address.
"The right to life is also threatened in those places where the death penalty continues to be imposed, as is the case in these days in Iran, following the recent demonstrations demanding greater respect for the dignity of women," he said on Monday.
"The death penalty cannot be employed for a purported state justice, since it does not constitute a deterrent nor render justice to victims, but only fuels the thirst for vengeance."
On Friday, Iranian authorities arrested Mehdi Beik, a journalist who had recently interviewed the families of protesters sentenced to death.
Human Rights Activists News Agency, an Iranian rights group, said last week that 516 protesters, including 70 minors, had been killed since the start of the demonstrations. As many as 19,262 protesters have been arrested, it added.
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