Rahmatullah Nourazov, far left, in an Iranian court. (Photo: Mizan news agency)

Iran to Execute Tajik National Over August Shrine Attack

Iran announced on Thursday that it sentenced Rahmatullah Nourazov, a national of Tajikistan, to death over his role in a deadly attack at a religious site in Shiraz province in August.

According to Mizan Online, a publication associated with the Iranian judiciary, Kazim Mousavi, chief justice of Fars province said Mr. Nourazov was handed two death sentences on charges of ‘waging war against God’, ‘corruption on earth’, and ‘conspiracy against national security.’

Iranian authorities said the convict, also known as Mustafa Aslamar, was a member of the anti-Shiite terrorist group, the Islamic State.

Tajikistan government authorities in Dushanbe, who are concerned about the rising threat of Islamic militancy, particularly after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, have not yet commented on the case.

Two other suspects, also Tajik nationals, were sentenced to five years of discretionary imprisonment and expulsion from Iran, local media reported. The Iranian judiciary said the reason for lighter punishment was the two men’s lack of knowledge about the intention of the main convict, Mr. Nourazov.

The August 13 attack was the second assault on Shah Cheragh shrine, the mausoleum attributed to Ahmad, brother of Imam Mohammad Reza, the Shiite’s 8th Imam buried in Mashhad in eastern Iran. Iranian authorities did not give accurate information about the casualties, which varied from one to four dead and nearly a dozen injured, based on different media and government sources.

Ismail Khatibzada, Iran’s minister of intelligence had said on August 19, announcing Nourazov’s arrest, that the attack was planned in a regional country. He had not said whether the country was Tajikistan, where the alleged perpetrators were from, or Afghanistan, the birth country of at least three key convicts of an earlier Islamic State attack on the same site and where the group’s affiliates have a base of operation.

However, he said they would send a delegation to the country where the suspects were from to discuss the matter with the relevant authorities.

The August attack happened nearly a month after Iran publicly executed two Afghans, Mohammad Ramiz Rashidi and Said Naim Hashimi Qatali, convicted of carrying out the October attack on the same shrine.

After the assault in October, the Iranian intelligence agency announced that it had arrested 26 suspects, mostly nationals of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan, where Iranian authorities said the mastermind was from. The main perpetrator was reported a man named Hamed Badakhshan, from Afghanistan, who was shot on-site and later died in the hospital. Three other men were sentenced to five to 25 years in prison.

The Islamic State group was quick to claim responsibility for the October attack on its Telegram channel. In August, however, the Iranian state media claimed hours after the attack that Islamic State had taken responsibility, without showing evidence.

International rights groups at the time of executions in July had said that Iran’s Revolutionary Court had ruled without following due process and investigating all evidence, criticizing the country’s global records of public execution. Amnesty International says Iran hanged at least 582 people last year, the highest number since 2015, making it the country with the highest execution rate except for China.

Affiliates of the Islamic State have carried out several attacks in Iran in recent years. In 2017, twin attacks in Tehran claimed by the group targeted the Iranian parliament building and the tomb of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Rohullah Khomeini.