Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli-Zare, two individuals found guilty of running several social media accounts dedicated to atheism and the desecration of religious sanctuaries, were killed by Iran’s judiciary, according to the nation’s Mizan news agency.
The defence attorney for Mehrad insisted on his client’s innocence and attacked the sentence’s unfairness. A human rights organisation criticised the executions as a barbaric act.
While the number of executions in Iran has increased due to continuous anti-government protests, those carried out for blasphemy charges are comparatively seldom. According to Mizan, Mehrad and Fazeli-Zare were executed by hanging on Monday morning at the Arak Prison in the heart of Iran.
The two men were detained in 2020, according to Iran’s Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), for allegedly running a Telegram group called “Criticism of Superstition and Religion.” HRANA emphasised that they were detained for two months in solitary confinement without access to legal counsel.
The Arak Criminal Court condemned Mehrad and Fazeli-Zare to death in addition to six years in jail for their claimed involvement in activities that constituted a danger to national security in 2021 after finding them guilty of blasphemy charges and sent them to death row. The Supreme Court maintained the death sentences and dismissed their appeals against the judgements. Both people, according to Mizan, have admitted to their wrongdoing.
Human rights groups have regularly criticised Iranian courts for disregarding the principles of a fair trial and using forced “confessions” acquired via torture as evidence.
Director of the Iran Human Rights organisation located in Norway Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam strongly denounced the killing of Mehrad and Fazeli-Zare. He said their deaths were grave violations of their right to free speech as well as cruel actions committed by a mediaeval government. Amiry-Moghaddam urged the international community to take decisive action, claiming that failure to do so would send a message to the Islamic Republic and its friends around the globe.
A Swedish-Iranian dual national suspected of taking part in a fatal attack on a military parade in 2018 was also put to death on Saturday in a separate incident. The killing of Habib Chaab was severely denounced by the European Union.
In terms of the annual number of executions, Iran is only surpassed by China. Since the year’s commencement, more than 200 executions have been recorded by Iran Human Rights. According to the organisation, there were 582 executions last year, a 75% increase from the previous year. They attributed the surge to government efforts to terrorise protesters across the country after Mahsa Amini died in detention in September.