Wrenching new photos from Iran appear to show a thief having four of his fingers severed by a "finger-chopping machine." (See the disturbing photos here.) The court-ordered public amputation reportedly took place on Jan. 24 in  the southern Iranian city of Shiraz after the 29-year-old man was convicted of burglary and adultery. In the photos, the prisoner is blindfolded and surrounded by three masked officials who hold his hand under the device. His face shows no pain, indicating that perhaps he was drugged before the procedure. 

Following the amputation, a public prosecutor announced that criminal punishments like these would become more severe. Some observers suspect that with the country's general elections quickly approaching in June, threats like these are being used as a way to deter public unrest. "Every time we get closer to an election, the number of these incidents increases," says Mahmoud Amiry-Moghaddam, a spokesperson for Iran Human Rights in Norway. "I believe this is a strategy to instill fear in the population so as to avoid any protests." 

Sadly, public displays of brutality are not new to Iran, a country where hangings, stonings, and torture are not exactly infrequent occurrences.