Iran said on Thursday it had executed a person arrested during the months-long protests that have gripped the country, the first known death penalty carried out in connection with the unrest.
The news sparked an outcry from activists who feared it could be the first of many as the regime cracks down on the demonstrations.
Mohsen Shekari was one of eleven people known to have been sentenced to death in connection with the protests, which posed the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic’s ruling clerical establishment since it came to power in a 1979 revolution.
He was hanged after being convicted of “waging war against God” – specifically blocking a street in Tehran and wounding a pro-regime Basij militia member with a machete – the Mizan news agency, which is run by the judiciary, early Thursday.
It said he had been tried by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, which has been criticized internationally by human rights groups for holding opaque show trials where defendants are not allowed to see the evidence against them.
The regime is using violent tactics on the streets in an attempt to quell anti-government protests that have raged for nearly three months.
Unrest erupted in mid-September when a young woman, Mahsa Amini, died in hospital three days after being arrested by the country’s vice squad for violating a strict dress code.
At least 475 people have been killed and 18,000 others arrested, according to the Human Rights Activists in Iran watchdog, which is based just outside Washington. Iran’s interior ministry said on Saturday that the death toll stood at 200, including security forces killed.
Thursday’s news has been horrified by activists, who condemned the lack of transparency in Shekari’s trial and feared it could be the first in a string of executions. “There needs to be STRONG responses or we will face daily executions of protesters,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based activist group Iran Human Rights, said in a tweet.
He called it a “mock trial without due process” and said there should be “quick practical consequences” internationally, without specifying what steps he intended to take.
“Mohsen gave his life for freedom. He wanted a normal life. Another brave soul killed by this bloody regime,” said Masih Alinejad, a journalist and activist living in Brooklyn. tweeted.
He was arrested on Sept. 25 in Tehran’s Sattar Khan district, according to the Mizan news agency, which said he blocked the street, held a machete given to him from a friend and injured a militiaman, who reportedly required 13 stitches.
The news agency claimed that Shekari was paid to wield the machete and participate in the protests. Iranian officials have been trying for months to claim, without providing evidence, that foreign states are behind the unrest, rather than that Iranian citizens are angry about the country’s problems.
No details of the case have been confirmed beyond information provided by the Iranian authorities. That is what Amnesty International and other human rights organizations say the authoritarian country holds “unfair trials” and uses death sentences by hanging as “a weapon of repression against protesters, dissidents and ethnic minorities”.
Iran executed 314 people last year, the most in the world after China data collected by Amnesty.
The associated press contributed.