Authorities in Iran have sentenced five people to death for the alleged murder of a member of a paramilitary force linked to the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), state media reported, while 11 others received long prison terms.
The 16 unidentified defendants — 13 men and three minors — were charged with the murder of Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary arm of the IRGC, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported Tuesday.
The killing allegedly took place in Karaj, near Tehran, in November, when a group of men chased and attacked Ajamian with knives and stones, according to IRNA. The report referred to “rioters”, a term the government commonly used for demonstrators and anti-government protesters gathering in the area at the time.
Prosecutors said 27-year-old Ajamian was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had paid tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi.
Najafi was killed on September 21, five days after the wave of protests that erupted across Iran over the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was being held for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code.
The five death row inmates were indicted by the Revolutionary Court on Monday along with eight others. According to IRNA, three boys have been charged by the criminal court. Judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi, named in the report, provided no evidence to support the allegations.
The judgments, which according to IRNA can be appealed, Come as Iran has been rocked by months of anti-government demonstrations violently suppressed by security forces. The protests, now entering their third month, have since escalated into calls for the downfall of the regime and ruling clerics.
The sentences were condemned by Iran Human Rights (IHR), a Norway-based non-governmental organization.
“These people have been convicted after unfair trials and without due process,” IHL director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam told AFP news agency. “The aim is to spread fear and stop people from protesting.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Court regularly pronounces death sentences. The court was established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. According to Amnesty International, Iran executed at least 314 people in 2021.
Last week, Iranian authorities executed four people accused of working for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. It did not provide the public with evidence of the four men’s alleged crimes.
Also on Tuesday, the semi-official state news agency Tasnim said authorities had arrested 12 people accused of links to “anti-revolutionary” foreign agents in Germany and the Netherlands.
According to an IRGC statement cited by Tasnim, the group was planning to procure weapons and go against the security of the country. No further details were provided. The arrests were also reported by YJC.Ir, a news website affiliated with Iran’s state television.
Iran regularly arrests and convicts people on espionage charges and accuses Western countries of fueling the protests. At least 473 people have been killed and 18,200 arrested so far during the demonstrations and crackdown by the security forces, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that monitors the protests.
There has been increasing confusion in recent days over the fate of the country’s morality police and Iran’s enforcement of its strict religious dress code. Chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri said in a report on Sunday by the semi-official state news agency ISNA that the vice squad had been closed.
The previous day, the prosecutor also said that the laws surrounding the wearing of the hijab or headscarf for women are under review, but gave no indication that the country intended to repeal the law.
Fewer morality police officers have been seen in Iranian cities for weeks. Throughout Tehran, it has become common to see women walking the streets without wearing the hijab, especially in wealthier areas.