Protests in Iran: Five sentenced to death for killing a paramilitary Iran

According to state media, the Iranian authorities have sentenced five people to death for allegedly killing a member of a paramilitary force affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard. 11 others were sentenced to prison terms.

The 13 men and three minors – none of whom have been identified – have been charged with the murder of Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer branch of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA, report Tuesday.

The alleged murder took place in Karaj near Tehran on November 12 when a group of men chased after Ajamian and attacked him with knives and stones, the report said. The IRNA report refers to “rioters,” a term often used by the government to refer to protesters. Anti-government demonstrations were taking place in the area at the time.

The verdicts come amid months of anti-government demonstrations that were violently repressed by Iranian security forces. The protests, now entering their third month, were sparked by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. Since then, demonstrations have escalated to demand the overthrow of Iran’s spiritual rulers, posing one of the most serious challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 revolution.

The five sentenced to death on Monday have been indicted by the Iranian Revolutionary Court. According to the report, three boys have been charged by the Iranian Criminal Court. Judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi, quoted in the report, did not provide any evidence to support the allegations.

IRNA said their sentences — the longest 25 years — are open to appeal.

Iran’s Revolutionary Court regularly imposes death sentences. The court was established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran executed at least 314 people in 2021, more than half of all state executions recorded in the Middle East that year, according to Amnesty International.

Last week, the Iranian authorities executed four people they accused of working for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. It provided no evidence to the public of any of the four men’s alleged crimes.

Also on Tuesday, the country’s semi-official state news agency Tasnim said authorities had arrested 12 people they accused of being linked to “anti-revolutionary” foreign agents in Germany and the Netherlands.

According to a statement by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps cited by Tasnim, the group planned to acquire weapons and move against the country’s security. No further information was given.

Iran regularly arrests and sentences people on espionage charges and has blamed western countries for fueling the protests. So far, at least 473 people have been killed and 18,200 others arrested in the demonstrations and the ensuing crackdown by security forces, according to human rights activists in Iran, a group that monitors the demonstrations.

Tuesday was also the second day of a three-day nationwide strike called by protesters. In posts circulating on social media, protesters called on businesses to close and urged people to stop using banks. The extent of the involvement was unclear, but in northern Tehran neighborhoods most shops were closed as of Tuesday afternoon and there was a heavy security presence.

Iran’s judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi on Monday ordered the arrest of anyone supporting the strike or trying to intimidate stores into closing. Tasnim said authorities in the southern city of Shiraz have closed a pharmacy after it reportedly refused to sell items to patients on Monday.

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