Iran hangs 2 in rare blasphemy case

Akash Arjun
Akash Arjun

Global Courant 2023-05-08 11:34:05

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran hanged two men convicted of blasphemy on Monday, authorities said.

Iran remains one of the world’s top executioners, having executed at least 203 prisoners since the beginning of this year alone, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights. But carrying out executions for blasphemy remains rare, as authorities have reduced sentences in previous cases.

The two executed men, Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare, died in Arak Prison in central Iran. They had been arrested in May 2020 on charges of involvement with a channel in the Telegram messaging app called “Critique of Superstition and Religion,” according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Both men spent months in solitary confinement and were unable to contact their families, the commission said.

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Iran’s judiciary’s Mizan news agency confirmed the executions, describing the two men as insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad and atheism. Mizan also accused them of burning a Quran, Islam’s holy book, though it was not clear whether the men allegedly did that or whether such images were shared on the Telegram channel.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, leader of Iran Human Rights, denounced the executions as exposing the “medieval nature” of Iran’s theocracy.

“The international community must show through its response that executions for expressing an opinion are unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “The international community’s refusal to act decisively is a green light for the Iranian government and all their like-minded people around the world.”

It was not immediately clear when Iran carried out its last execution for blasphemy. Other Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia also allow death sentences to be imposed for blasphemy.

The string of executions, including members of Iran’s ethnic minority groups, stems from months of protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September after her arrest by the country’s vice squad fumbled. Already, at least four people charged with alleged crimes of the demonstrations have been put to death. The protests, which reportedly led to the arrest of more than 500 people and 19,000 others, posed one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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In 2022, Iran executed at least 582 people, up from 333 people in 2021, according to Iran Human Rights. According to Amnesty International’s most recent report on executions, Iran is the second largest executioner in the world, behind only China, where thousands are believed to be put to death each year.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.


Iran hangs 2 in rare blasphemy case

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