Iran executes 1st protester, is accused of poisoning students to prevent more anti-government protests
Iran on Thursday hanged a 23-year-old man, Mohsen Shekari, after convicting him of "waging war against God" during a Sept. 25 protest in Tehran over the death of Masha Amini. Shekari is the first known protester executed since Amini's death in custody of the "morality police," though at least 11 others have been sentenced to death and some 20 others face capital charges. Shekari was convicted of attacking a member of the pro-regime Basij militia.
At least 475 protesters have been killed by security forces since Amini's death and another 18,240 have been detained, according to the Human Rights Activists' News Agency (HRANA). The government puts the number of dead at about 200, including a number of security personnel.
"Social media reports indicate that neither Shekari nor his family were informed of his impending execution beforehand and that the regime disposed of his body, depriving his family of the opportunity to bury him and of the location of a grave at which to mourn him," the Critical Threats Project research group said Thursday night.
Iran's theocratic regime is taking "another huge gamble" with this "rushed execution of a young protester," Parham Ghobadi writes at BBC Persian. This "might deter others from taking to the streets," but "it might prove to be a double-edged sword for the Iranian regime, which is seeking to instill fear but causing anger. Protesters have proven over and over again that they no longer have any fear. The funeral of each one killed by security forces has turned into an anti-government demonstration."
The regime is taking other steps to stop protests, though, aside from fear and intimidation. At least 1,200 university students "appear to have been poisoned" last weekend, right before they were due to attend mass anti-government protests, Britain's Telegraph reports. The government blamed the illnesses on accidental food poisoning; students dumped food on the ground, saying the government was deliberately poisoning the food to stop them from protesting.
Shekari's execution drew international condemnation from Western governments and human rights groups.
And the government's violent crackdown on protesters also drew the condemnation of Badri Hosseini Khamenei, the sister of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. "I hope to see the victory of the people and the overthrow of this tyranny ruling Iran soon," Hosseini Khamenei said Wednesday in a letter posted by her son. She criticized her brother's government as a "despotic caliphate."