Iran executes second man amid protests

LONDON– Iran on Monday executed a second man, 22-year-old Majid Reza Rahnavard, who was convicted of “waging war against God” amid ongoing protests in the country.

Rahnavard, who was accused of killing two guards and creating an atmosphere of fear, was hanged in his hometown of Mashhad, according to Iran’s Mizan news agency, which acts as the country’s judiciary media hub. His family told activist groups that they only found out and received an address where their son was buried after a call from security forces.

Rahnavard is the second protester to be executed by the Islamic Republic in less than a week on charges related to the ongoing protests that have gripped the country in recent months. Mohsen Shekari was executed on Thursday for blocking a road and stabbing a police officer in Tehran.

Neither Rahnavard nor Shekari were allowed to appoint their own lawyers. Their execution sentences were carried out 23 and 73 days after their arrest, respectively, a “surprisingly quick” process for such cases, even by Islamic Republic standards, lawyers said.

A lawyer in Iran, who could not be identified for security reasons, previously told ABC News the legal process behind Shekari’s trial and execution was “not transparent and not at all normal.”

“Crimes punishable by death, like ‘Moharebeh,’ must have a lawyer,” the lawyer said. “But Shekari was denied the right to appoint a lawyer.”

Crimes like “Moharebeh” are “open to interpretation” by judges, the Iranian lawyer told ABC News on Monday. “Any action, whether it is lighting a garbage can or blocking a road, can be taken as an example of a war against God. If you can’t appoint a lawyer in a court like that, it’s a total sham trial.”

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According to judicial reports in recent weeks, at least 20 other people are currently either on death row or on charges of “waging war against God” and “corruption on earth” for taking part in the protests, which – under Iranian Sharia law – are punishable by execution.

“Tough days lie ahead for these prisoners and their families,” an Iranian activist, who asked not to have her name identified for security reasons, told ABC News. “They see these executions and cannot sustain hope of a fair trial for their loved ones.”

“Every night I worry that they will bring me the news of my child’s execution,” Mashallah Karami, father of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, another protester sentenced to execution, told Iran’s Etemad Daily on Monday. His son was arrested after attending the funeral of one of the victims of the protests in Karaj, a city north of Tehran, on November 3.

Karami’s father told the Etemad newspaper that his son was also not allowed to appoint his own lawyer and that instead the court would appoint a public defender to represent him.

However, the public defender is not responding to his calls, Mashallah Karami said. “The lawyer even refused to give me the address of his office,” Karami’s father told the newspaper, leaving the family confused as to how they could even appeal the court decision.

The Islamic Republic’s justice news website Mizan claimed Rahnavard was executed “publicly,” but many people on social media said the crowd shown in pictures of the execution was made up of guards and Basij militias, rather than ordinary people who supported the execution.

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“This is further propaganda by the regime trying to buy credit by committing murder and then staging fake bystanders at the scene,” a journalist who could not be identified for security reasons told ABC News. “How could anyone from the public be there to watch the execution when it was completely unannounced that even Rahnavard’s own family didn’t know about?”

Since the protest movement erupted in September, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody after her arrest for violating Iran’s strict dress code for women, Iranian authorities have killed at least 458, including 63 children, according to the NGO Iran Human Rights with at least 15,000 inmates.

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