December 1, 2023 – The surging executions of political prisoners in Iran are part of a state campaign deployed to crush dissent, and should be met with strong action by the international community, said the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
A child was among those hanged this week in Iran, in violation of the absolute prohibition against the execution of juveniles under international law.
“The hanging of political prisoners and children reflects the violent and unlawful lengths the Iranian authorities will go to sow fear and crush dissent,” said CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“World leaders must warn the Iranian authorities that they must immediately cease these executions, particularly of minors, or risk severe political and economic consequences,” Ghaemi added.
This week’s executions included the case of 17-year-old Hamidreza Azari in Sabzevar Prison, accused of murder. He was 16 at the time of the alleged crime. His execution stands in direct violation of Iran’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, explicitly prohibiting executions for crimes committed before the age of eighteen.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the very few countries in the world that continue to execute juveniles. Moreover, it typically carries out these executions after severe violations of due process and fair trial rights.
CHRI urges global leaders to intensify pressure on the Islamic Republic and demand an immediate halt to these unlawful and escalating executions of minors and political prisoners.
CHRI calls on world governments to:
Summon Iranian ambassadors to directly condemn these executions and warn that intensified diplomatic and economic isolation will follow the continuation of these unlawful killings;
Make public statements, unilaterally and in bilateral and multilateral forums, including press conferences and upcoming meetings of the OECD and UN General Assembly, forcefully condemning these executions;
Actively work with allies, partners and other governments to advance joint initiatives that impose diplomatic and economic consequences for these unlawful executions.
At Least Six Politically Motivated Executions in Less Than a Week
The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has put to death at least 419 people in the first seven months of the year, the Javaid Rehman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said in a new report to the UN General Assembly. This is a 30% increase over the same period in 2022.
At least 690 prisoners have been executed in Iran since January 1, 2023, including children, women and political prisoners, according to research by CHRI. The full tally is likely higher yet is difficult to expose due to the state’s reluctance to disclose official figures on these executions.
Since the onset of Iran’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in September 2022, which included widespread protests throughout the country, the Islamic Republic has significantly intensified its executions of prisoners.
CHRI has identified six political prisoners known executed in the past week; the full count may well be higher.
*Qasem Abasteh, 44, was executed on November 30, 2023, in the Ghezalhesar prison in the city of Karaj. Based in the city of Mahabad in West Azerbaijan province, the father of two children was arrested by state security forces on December 7, 2009, along with six fellow ethnic Kurdish Iranians. He was transferred to Rajaee-Shahr Prison in Karaj, Alborz province, on April 13, 2012, and then to Qezel Hesar Prison, also in Karaj.
Abasteh was sentenced to death along with six other Kurdish Sunni Muslims in March 2015 by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh of Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The death sentences were upheld by Branch 41 of the Supreme Court in February 2019, and in September of that same year, Iran’s Supreme Court turned down their request for a retrial.
Accused of murdering Abdolrahim Tina, the imam of Kholafa Rashedin Mosque in Mahabad, the six faced charges such as “waging war,” “corruption on earth,” and “supporting Salafi (Sunni extremist) groups.” Over the years the prisoners have repeatedly rejected the accusations, including in letters published by human rights organizations.
*Ayoub Karimi, age unknown, was executed on November 30, 2023, in the Ghezalhesar prison in the city of Karaj. He was arrested by state security forces on December 7, 2009, and interrogated for eight months in the Ministry of Intelligence detention center in Oroumiyeh, West Azerbaijan province. He was accused of murdering Abdolrahim Tina, the imam of the Kholafa Rashedin Mosque in Mahabad. His charges included “waging war,” “corruption on earth,” and “supporting Salafi (Sunni extremist) groups.”
Karimi was initially transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran, along with six other co-defendants, including Qasem Abasteh, also listed in this report, who was executed the same day. In 2019, they were moved to Gohardasht Prison in Karaj and in August 2023, to Qezel Hesar Prison.
Karimi, a father of two children from Mahabad, went through the same judicial process as in the case of Qasem Abesteh and five other co-defendants.
*Following the enforcement of Karimi and Abasteh’s death sentences, their five co-defendants now also face imminent execution.
Hani Albushahbazi, 32, was executed in Sepidar Prison of the city of Ahvaz on November 30, 2023. Arrested in December 2019, days after the start of nationwide protests including in the city he was in, Shadegan, Khuzestan province, Albushahbazi was accused of murdering a “police officer and a morality defender.” He was sentenced to death on the charges of “waging war by drawing a weapon with the intention to kill people” (Moharebeh) by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Abadan, Khuzestan province.
(Geda) Ali Saber Motlagh, 62, was executed in Rasht Central Prison on November 25, 2023, according to the Iran Human Rights organization. He was described as a political prisoner in the 1980s, during a period marked by intense political executions and repression. Initially arrested for his affiliation with the Mojahedin-e-Khalgh (MEK) and accused of assassinating a government official on August 28, 1981, Motlagh was acquitted due to a lack of evidence. Upon his return to Iran approximately four years ago, Ali Saber Motlagh was re-arrested on the same alleged charge of assassination and subsequently sentenced to death, despite the lack of evidence presented in court.
Milad Zohrehvand, 21, was executed on November 23, 2023, in the Hamedan Central Prison. He was initially arrested during the 2022 protests in the city of Malayer, Hamedan province and denied access to a lawyer during his detention and interrogations. A road construction worker, his child was born while he was in detention. According to state media, he was sentenced to death on the charge of killing Ali Nazari, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), during a memorial for Mahsa Jina Amini on October 26, 2022. He was charged with “waging war by drawing a weapon with the intention to kill people” (Moharebeh).
Kamran Rezaei, 33, was executed in the Adelabad Prison in Shiraz on November 30, 2023. He was arrested during nationwide protests in November 2019 and charged with murdering a Basij militia member on the charges of “murder” and “self-revenge.” The Iranian Human Rights Organization quoted an informed source note that he was “held in solitary confinement for seven months and forced to make self-incriminating confessions under torture. He was tortured so much that Kamran said he had blood in his urine for a long time afterwards and had also sustained damage to his right ear. He always said he was innocent and would be released.”
In addition to executing juveniles and political prisoners, the Islamic Republic executes hundreds of individuals for drug crimes that do not meet the “most serious crimes” threshold demanded under international law. Iran also disproportionally applies the death penalty to members of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran.