Responding to the execution of three tortured protesters – Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi – following a grossly unfair trial that bore no resemblance to meaningful judicial proceedings, Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“We are horrified by the chilling execution of these protesters this morning. They were sentenced to death less than two months after their arrest and executed just weeks after the Supreme Court rubberstamped their unjust convictions and sentences without any regard for the lack of evidence and serious allegations of torture. The shocking speed at which these men were ushered to their deaths illustrates the Iranian authorities’ flagrant disregard for the rights to life and a fair trial.”
“These executions are designed by the Iranian authorities to send a strong message to the world and the people of Iran that they will stop at nothing to crush and punish dissent. In the absence of a robust international response, the authorities will continue to revel, unabated, in their impunity with lethal consequences for people in Iran.”
“Governments must urgently denounce these executions, in the strongest possible terms, through public statements and demarches. However, in the face of the Iranian authorities’ unrelenting use of the death penalty, this is not enough. People in Iran don’t have the luxury of time – they are being arbitrarily deprived of their lives at a horrific rate under the guise of judicial executions.”
“We urge all states to exercise universal jurisdiction over all Iranian officials against whom there is sufficient admissible evidence of criminal responsibility for torture and other crimes under international law.”
“The Iranian authorities must understand, in no uncertain terms, that the world will not simply stand by as they intensify their use of the death penalty as a tool of political repression.”
Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi were arrested in November 2022 following their participation in protests in Esfahan city amid the nationwide protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini.
According to informed sources, the three men were subjected to torture while forcibly disappeared and forced to make incriminating statements, which formed the basis of the criminal case against them. Sources said that interrogators suspended Majid Kazemi upside down and showed him a video of them torturing his brother, whom they also detained. They also subjected Majid Kazemi to mock executions at least 15 times by standing him on a chair and putting a rope around his neck, only to pull him down at the last moment. In the days leading up to the trial, they threatened to kill his brothers if he did not accept his charges and “confess” to whatever they said.
In an audio message from inside Dastgerd Prison, where the men are held, Majid Kazemi said: “I swear to God I am innocent. I didn’t have any weapons on me. They [security forces] kept beating me and ordering me to say this weapon is mine… I told them I would say whatever they wanted, just please leave my family alone. I did whatever they wanted because of the torture.”
The men were put on trial in December 2022 and January 2023 and sentenced to death on the vaguely worded and overly broad charge of “enmity against God” (moharebeh). The authorities imposed the charge based on unfounded allegations stemming from torture-tainted “confessions” that the men used firearms in an incident during protests in Esfahan during which three members of the security forces died. However, they did not charge them or convict them of murder for these deaths. On 10 May, the authorities announced that their convictions and sentences had been upheld by the Supreme Court despite due process violations, significant procedural flaws, lack of evidence, and torture allegations that were never investigated. According to informed sources, the authorities had told the men’s families on several occasions before the Supreme Court’s decision that they would be pardoned and released due to lack of evidence.
The authorities buried the men in three separate locations under strict security presence. After the authorities executed Majid Kazemi this morning, they arrested one of his brothers.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution; because the death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.