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Iran executes two men accused of killing security forces amid protests

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Iran said it executed two men on Saturday who were convicted of allegedly killing a member of the security forces during unprecedented nationwide protests that erupted after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mohsa Amini on Sept. 16.

The two men, who were executed on Saturday, were convicted of killing a member of the Basij paramilitary militia. Three others were sentenced to death in the same case, while 11 others were sentenced to prison terms.

“Mohammed Mehdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, the main perpetrators of the crime that led to the death of Ruhollah Ajemian, were hanged this morning,” the judiciary said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.

The latest executions bring to four the number of protesters officially known to have been executed in the aftermath of the unrest.

Amnesty International said last month that the Iranian authorities were seeking to impose the death penalty on at least 26 others in “show trials aimed at intimidating protesters in the popular uprising that has rocked the country”.

It said that all those facing death sentences were denied the right to an adequate defense and access to selected lawyers. Rights groups say the defendants have instead had to rely on state-appointed lawyers who have done little to defend them.

Amnesty said the court that convicted Karami, the 22-year-old karate champion, relied on forced confessions.

Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakany, Hosseini’s lawyer, said in a tweet dated December 18 that Hosseini had been subjected to severe torture and that confessions extracted under torture had no legal basis.

He said Hosseini was beaten on his hands and feet, kicked in the head until he passed out, and subjected to electric shocks to various parts of the body.

Iran denies extracting confessions under torture.

Mahsa Amini died in custody in September after being arrested by the morality police for enforcing the country’s mandatory dress codes. The ensuing protests represent one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic Republic since its creation in 1979.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday appointed hardline police official Ahmad Reza Radan as the new head of the national police, state media reported.

Radan, who was placed under US sanctions in 2010 for human rights abuses, frequently advocated strict enforcement of a dress code for women in the country during his previous police posts.

The Basij force, which is affiliated with Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, has been behind much of the crackdown on protesters.

Iran has blamed the unrest on its foreign adversaries, including the United States, and sees its suppression of protests as preserving national sovereignty.

Rights group HRANA said 517 protesters had been killed during the unrest as of Friday, including 70 minors. It added that 68 members of the security forces were also killed.

It said as many as 19,262 protesters were believed to have been arrested.

Iranian officials said that up to 300 people were killed, including members of the security forces.

The first protester known to have been executed, 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari, on December 8, less than three months after his arrest. He was charged with burning a rubbish bin, blocking a road, stabbing a member of the Basij militia with a machete, and endangering public safety.

Majid Reza Rahnavard, 23, was publicly hanged on December 12 in the northeastern city of Mashhad, less than a month after his arrest. He was charged with stabbing two Basij members to death and wounding four others in Mashhad.

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