Photo: Mizan Online News Agency

Iran Executes a Young Prisoner, Causing Uproar

Iran’s judiciary announced on Tuesday, January 23, that it carried out the death sentence of Mohammad Ghobadlou, 23, who was accused of driving into a group of police officers, killing one and injuring five others during mass demonstration that rocked the country in September 2022.

The police officer was killed during the massive protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. Mahsa, a young Kurdish-Iranian woman, had been arrested for violating the strict dress code for women in the Islamic Republic, leading to widespread outrage and demonstrations. Mr. Ghobadlou is the ninth person to be executed in relation to the Mahsa Amini protests so far.

The execution sparked widespread criticism of the Islamic Republic’s embracing of the death penalty in high numbers. A group of United Nations experts condemned the execution, saying that the trial was unfair. “We are alarmed by reports of unfair trial proceedings in the case of Mr. Ghobadlou, as well as in other cases, which fell far short of due process and fair trial standards required by international human rights law by which Iran is bound.”

According to multiple reports, Mr. Ghobadlou and his lawyers were not fully informed of his execution plans beforehand. “We are shocked that the authorities went ahead with the execution despite the fact that Mr Ghobadlou and his lawyer had no information about the legal basis for the intended execution,” the experts said.

The Iranian diaspora activists also took to social media and online spaces to condemn the execution on Tuesday. Norway-based human rights group, Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported that on the same day, the Islamic Republic executed another man, Farhad Salimi, a Kurdish Sunni political prisoner, on charges of Moharebeh (enmity against god) and fesad-fil-arz (corruption on earth) in a prison in Karaj city.

“The execution of Farhad Salimi, like Mohammad Ghobadlu, is an example of extrajudicial killing, and Ali Khamenei and the officials of the corrupt judicial system of the Islamic Republic regime should be held accountable for this crime,” said Mahmoud Amiry-Moghaddam, IHR director. “We urge the people and the global community to raise the cost of these extrajudicial killings for the regime through protest and appropriate reaction,” he added.

Iran has the second-highest execution rate after China. The Islamic Republic’s justice system enforces the death penalty for a variety of crimes, including drug offenses, national security concerns, blasphemy, and anti-government activities including participation in protests. Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRANA), a non-political and nongovernmental rights organization, has reported that in 2023, at least 746 individuals were executed in Iran, marking a 32% increase compared to the previous year. This trend continues into 2024, with at least 51 cases of execution within the first 23 days of year according to the Iran Human Rights (IHR). 

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Iranian authorities have killed hundreds of protesters, arrested thousands of people, and tortured scores of detainees, including women and children. The organization says that human rights groups are investigating the killing of more than 500 people, including 69 children, during the protests.