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Iran death penalty verdict for protesters sparks outrage

July 15, 2020

Iranians took to social media to protest the planned execution of three young protesters, under the hashtag #Don'tExecute. The men had taken part in last year's mass demonstrations against a fuel price hike.

Iran fuel protests November 2019
Image: FARS

Iranian netizens took to Twitter and other social media platforms to protest and express their opposition to the death penalty handed to three young Iranian men for taking part in anti-government demonstrations last year.

Opponents of the verdict tweeted the hashtag #Don'tExecute in Farsi, and #StopExecutionsInIran in English, with well-known figures including Oscar-winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, journalist Masih Alinejad, and the exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi, joining the calls to stop the planned executions. 

"It is the fire under the ashes that will one day conquer the streets of Iran again,” Alinejad wrote on Twitter.

"Do not make people even more bitter in this sad time," Farhadi wrote on Instagram. 

"To the criminal regime & its leader: The execution of every protester & political prisoner only strengthens the criminal case against you," Pahlavi wrote on Twitter. "Know that the Iranian nation will not tolerate the execution of these young protesters. Stop your crimes against humanity."

Read more: Iran sentences journalist to death for fueling anti-government protests

A final decision

The protests came after Justice Ministry spokesman Gholam-Hussein Ismaili on Tuesday said the Supreme Court confirmed the death penalties for the protesters. Reformist Shargh newspaper named the three as Amirhossein Moradi, a 26-year-old employee of a cellphone retailer, Said Tamjidi, a 28-year-old student and Mohammad Rajabi, also 26.

Ismaili did not say when the men would be executed. The spokesman rejected criticism of the death penalty at a press conference, saying that the men were violent ringleaders of the protests and had set fire to a number of buildings and transport facilities. They had also recorded their actions on their phones, he said. 

Once a death penalty is confirmed by the Supreme Court, the decision is final, and can only be overturned by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini. 

Amnesty International also slammed the verdict, tweeting that Khameini must quash the execution immediately, and that the men "were subjected to torture through beatings, electric shocks and being hung upside down."

Another user tweeted, along with a photo of the condemned men, "Our fathers are next. Our brothers are next. Our sisters are next. Our best friends are next. I am next. You are next." 

Read more: UN criticizes Iran's use of death penalty against minors

Internet disruptions

Users also reported slower internet connections amid the social media outcry. Internet disruptions are a common tactic used in Iran, to slow the spread of information and curb dissent.

NetBlocks, an organization that tracks internet shutdowns and disruptions, confirmed evidence of slower connections. 

"Confirmed: Significant disruption to multiple networks in #Iran," NetBlocks tweeted on Tuesday.

Iran was rocked by days of unrest over a hike in fuel prices in November of last year. Over 1,000 demonstrators were arrested at the time, while by some estimates, between 200 and 400 people were killed and thousands injured.

Amnesty International placed the number of those killed in the protests at 304, and a senior Iranian lawmaker said in June that 230 had been killed. The government also ordered a week-long internet blackout to suppress the demonstrations, which saw gas pumps torched, police stations attacked and shops looted. 

lc/stb (AFP, dpa)