Outrage as Iran hands down more death sentences over Amini protests

Iran has handed down three more death sentences for offences related to the civil unrest triggered by Mahsa Amini's death, the judiciary said Monday, fuelling international protests against the regime.

The latest sentences -- for three men who were convicted of the killings of three security forces members -- bring to 17 the official total of detainees condemned to death in connection with the nearly four months of protests.

Four executions have been carried out while six of those convicted have been granted retrials.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said Monday at least 109 protesters now in detention have been sentenced to death or face charges that can carry capital punishment.

The Islamic republic has been rocked by a wave of protests since the September 16 death in custody of Kurdish Iranian Amini, 22, following her arrest for allegedly violating Iran's strict dress code for women.

In the latest ruling, Saleh Mirhashemi, Majid Kazemi and Saeed Yaghoubi were sentenced to death for "moharebeh" -- or waging "war against God" -- under Iran's Islamic sharia law, the judiciary's Mizan Online website reported.

In addition to the sentences, which can still be appealed, they were found guilty of belonging to a "criminal group with the intention of disrupting the security of the country", a charge that carries a 10-year jail term.

Iran has blamed the unrest on hostile foreign forces, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday that authorities had been dealing "seriously and justly" with those implicated in the "riots".

"There is no doubt that there are economic and livelihood problem, but can this problem be solved by burning trash cans and rioting in the streets?" he said according to his official website.

"Undoubtedly, these actions are treason, and the responsible institutions deal with treason seriously and justly."

- 'Terrorising own population' -

The crackdown and executions have sparked global outrage and new Western sanctions against Tehran.

In a report, IHR gave an updated death toll Monday of 481 killed protesters, including 64 minors.

Iranian authorities say hundreds, including members of the security forces, have been killed since the unrest began.

Human rights groups have also accused Iran of thousands of arrests and a failure to grant due legal process to defendants and extracting forced confessions.

Germany summoned Iran's ambassador to Berlin on Monday in protest against Tehran's bloody crackdown and the latest executions, carried out Saturday, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

Baerbock said the envoy had been called "to make unmistakably clear that the brutal repression, the oppression and the terrorising of its own population as well as the most recent two executions will not remain without consequence".

The French foreign ministry also summoned Iran's envoy to Paris "to convey our firmest condemnation of these executions and the current repression in Iran," it said.

Pope Francis on Monday appealed for an end to the death penalty around the world, including Iran.

"The death penalty cannot be employed for a purported state justice since it does not constitute a deterrent nor render justice to victims but only fuels the thirst for vengeance," he said.

According to London-based rights group Amnesty International, Iran is second only to China in its use of the death penalty, with at least 314 people executed in 2021.

- Protest outside prison -

In the latest Iranian ruling, two others were handed prison terms for the incident that led to the deaths of the three security force members in the central province of Isfahan on November 16, Mizan said.

One of them is professional footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani, 26, who received sentences totalling 26 years in prison on three different charges including assisting in "moharebeh".

Under Iranian law, he should serve them concurrently, meaning he would be behind bars for 16 years, it said.

Nasr-Azadani's case and the risk of him being sentenced to death had raised alarm abroad, mainly by FIFPRO, the world union of professional footballers.

More rallies against the Iranian regime have been held in London and Paris in recent days, while protest continued inside Iran.

Protesters gathered late Sunday outside a prison in the northern city of Karaj after reports that two inmates had been transferred to solitary confinement ahead of execution, according to several rights groups based abroad.

Protest monitor tasvir1500 said a crowd, including the mother of death row inmate Mohammad Ghobadlou demonstrated in front of Gohardasht prison, also known as Rajai Shahr, "to save the lives" of him and another prisoner, Mohammad Boroghani.

Both had been convicted of attacks on security forces and their appeals have been rejected.

Videos shared by tasvir1500 show the crowd chanting slogans against the death sentences and comforting Ghobadlou's mother, who tells the crowd her son had been "deliberately" framed. AFP was unable to immediately verify the footage.

burs/fz/ami