Iran halts execution of 3 convicted over November protests

Tehran (AFP) – Iran has halted the executions of three young men linked to deadly November protests, sentences which had sparked widespread outrage, one of the accused’s lawyers told AFP on Sunday.

Last week a court had upheld their death sentences over evidence the judiciary said was found on their phones of them setting alight banks, buses and public buildings during the wave of anti-government demonstrations.

“We conveyed a request to review the verdict to the supreme court and they have accepted it,” the lawyer, Babak Paknia, said over the phone.

“We hope the verdict will be overturned.”

The lawyer identified the three as friends Amirhossein Moradi, a 26-year-old retail worker, Said Tamjidi, a 28-year-old driver for Snapp (Iran’s Uber), and Mohammad Rajabi, also 26 and unemployed.

They were sentenced to death for “collusion to endanger national security” and “destroying and setting fire to public property with the aim of confronting the political system of the Islamic republic,” said Paknia, who represents Moradi.

The trio had also received prison sentences on other convictions including theft and leaving the country illegally, he added.

The demonstrations erupted on November 15 after authorities more than doubled fuel prices overnight, exacerbating economic hardship in the sanctions-hit country.

They rocked a handful of cities before spreading to at least 100 urban centres across the Islamic republic.

Petrol pumps were torched, police stations attacked and shops looted before security forces stepped in amid a near-total internet blackout.

– ‘Very hopeful’ –

A senior Iranian lawmaker said in June that 230 were killed and thousands injured during the protests.

Authorities had for months refused to provide casualty figures, rejecting tolls given by foreign media and human rights groups as “lies”.

London-based rights group Amnesty International has put the number of deaths at 304, and a group of independent UN rights experts said in December that 400 could have been killed, including at least 12 children, based on unconfirmed reports.

The United States has claimed that more than 1,000 were killed in the violence.

Four lawyers representing the accused said they were “very hopeful” that the verdicts would be overturned.

In a statement published by state news agency IRNA, they noted that “one of the judges at the supreme court had opposed the verdicts before”.

Paknia also appeared optimistic, saying the process to overturn the verdicts “could take a few months”.

The lawyer said the defence team planned to make a request to Iran’s chief justice if their current push does not succeed.

Numerous calls had spread online since the verdict was announced, using the hashtag #DontExecute to call for a halt to executions in the country.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said at the time that the verdict could still change over “extraordinary proceedings,” pointing to a legal clause that could trigger a retrial if deemed necessary by the chief justice.

A group of UN rights experts had urged Iran on Thursday to overturn the sentences.

“Today we join hundreds of thousands of Iranians on social media who condemned these death sentences,” said more than a dozen independent UN experts on issues including arbitrary executions, freedom of assembly and torture.

France said it was “deeply shocked” by the verdicts and reaffirmed its “steadfast opposition to the death penalty”.

US President Donald Trump also weighed in, tweeting that executing “these three people sends a terrible signal to the world and should not be done!”

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