'Reprehensible': EU condemns 'appalling' executions of Iran protesters

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By Joshua Askew  with AFP/Reuters/AP
Women protest the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini who was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.
Women protest the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini who was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

The European Union condemned the execution of two men in Iran on Saturday, amid anti-government protests sparked by the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman. 

Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, and Mohammad Hosseini, 39, were hung after allegedly killing a paramilitary during nationwide protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in September. 

Critics have questioned the validity of the charges against the two men, while pointing out that they were denied proper legal support in rushed, closed trials. 

The EU is "appalled" by the executions, according to a spokeswoman for the bloc's top diplomat Josep Borrell. 

It called on Iranian authorities to "immediately put an end to the highly reprehensible practice of ... carrying out death sentences" and "cancel without delay" those that are planned. 

Iran has so far executed four people since demonstrations began in mid-September, though the NGO Iran Human Rights has warned some 100 protesters, including teenage boys and five women, are at risk of execution. 

"Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, principle perpetrators of the crime that led to the unjust martyrdom of Ruhollah Ajamian were hanged this morning," the judiciary said in a statement put out by the official IRNA news agency.

The two men were convicted of killing a member of the Basiji on 3 November in Karaj, a city near Tehran. Linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Basiji is a volunteer militia that has been deployed to attack and detain protesters, who have often fought back. 

According to his lawyer, Karami was not allowed to meet and say goodbye to his family before being hung, as is often the case in Iran. 

The other executed protester, Hosseini, was an orphan. His lawyer previously reported that he had been severely tortured in prison, according to IranWire, a UK-based media outlet. 

The EU has sanctioned Iran for its brutal crackdown on protesters and supplying drones to Russia, though there have been calls for the bloc to do more. 

In December, Amnesty International slammed the executions by the Iranian government, calling them "sham trials designed to intimidate protesters in the popular uprising that has rocked the country".

It said all of those facing death sentences had been denied the right to adequate defence and access to lawyers of their choosing. 

Other rights groups claim defendants must instead rely on state-appointed lawyers who do little to defend them.

Iran has been rocked by the largest wave of protests in its modern history since the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16. 

While visiting the capital with her family, she was arrested by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating the country's strict dress codes for women. Her family say Amini was severely beaten by officers, which put her in a coma, though officials claim she had a heart attack. 

Iranian officials denounce the protests as "riots", fuelled by foreign states and opposition groups.

In December, Karami's father appealed to the authorities to not execute his son, describing him as a karate champion who has won contests for the Iranian national team. 

According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency, 517 protesters have been killed during the unrest, including 70 minors. It said 68 members of the security forces had also been killed.

As many as 19,262 protesters are believed to have been arrested, it said.