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Iran’s Raisi vows crackdown on protesters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has declared no let-up against anti-government protesters, even as a prominent cleric says the unrest doesn’t breach sharia law.

December 10, 2022
10 December 2022

A prominent dissenting Sunni cleric says the death sentence of a protester involved in recent Iranian anti-government unrest violated sharia law, as President Ebrahim Raisi promised to press on with a security crackdown a day after the man’s execution.

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.

Nationwide protests that erupted after the death in police custody of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on September 16 pose one of the biggest challenges to theocratic rule in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“The identification, trial and punishment of the perpetrators of the martyrdom (killing) of security forces will be pursued with determination,” Raisi said at a ceremony honouring security forces killed during protests, according to state media.

Molavi Abdolhamid, a Sunni cleric in the Shi’ite-ruled Islamic Republic, criticised the death sentence, according to his website.

“When someone has not killed but only blocked a road and stabbed and injured a Basij (militia) member with a knife, he cannot be put to death under sharia,” Molavi Abdolhamid said.

“Listen to these protests and negotiate with the people of Iran. Beating, killing and executing this nation is not right. This protest will not be quelled by killing people,” he said, addressing authorities from the restive province of Zahedan.

State media published a video of what it said was Shekari’s confession where he appears with a bruise on his right cheek. He admitted striking a member of the Basij militia with a knife and to blocking a road with his motorbike alongside one of his friends.

Human rights groups said Shekari was tortured and forced to confess.

In Geneva, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Turk called the execution “very troubling and clearly designed to send a chilling effect to the rest of the protesters”. He called on the Iranian authorities to immediately institute a moratorium on death penalty.

Iran’s foreign ministry rejected Western criticism of rights abuses during the crackdown as meddling in Iran’s internal affairs and in violation of international law.

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”.

Iran blames the unrest on its foreign foes including the United States, although protesters have come from all walks of life and have drawn public support from prominent cultural and sports figures, as well as a sister and a niece of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Germany on Friday condemned the execution, called on Tehran to end its violence against protesters and confirmed it had summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin.

Britain announced sanctions on Friday against 30 people worldwide, including officials from Russia, Iran and Myanmar it deems responsible for human rights abuses or corruption.

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