By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN, Iran (AA) – Iran’s judiciary on Tuesday issued death sentences against five more people allegedly involved in last month’s killing of a Basij paramilitary member following a high-profile televised trial.
The verdict takes the total number of death sentences to 11 since the outbreak of countrywide protests in September over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police.
Addressing a press conference in Tehran, Iran’s judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said 16 accused were summoned in the case related to the killing of Ruhollah Ajamian.
Five of them were sentenced to death in preliminary verdicts while 11 others, including three under the age of 18, were handed down long-term imprisonments.
The sentences, he added, are not final and can be appealed in the apex court.
Ajamian, a 27-year-old paramilitary Basiji, was killed by a group of protesters armed with cold weapons in early November in the city of Karaj, the capital of central Alborz province.
Videos and photos of the attack were widely circulated on social media.
The judiciary conducted a televised trial of the accused men, in which main defendants presented graphic details of the incident that led to Ajamian’s death.
The five men were eventually handed the death penalty on charges of “corruption on earth” as well as “crimes against security” and “causing disruption in public order”, the judiciary spokesman said.
So far, Iran’s judiciary has sentenced 11 people to death in connection with months-long protests, which have been marred by violence lately.
Most of the death penalties have been on charges of corruption on earth and mohabereh (waging war against God), which have been widely used in Iran since the 1979 revolution.
It comes a day after judiciary chief Mohseni Ejei said all death sentences in connection with the ongoing protests that are upheld by the Supreme Court will be carried out immediately.
Meanwhile, the judiciary spokesman announced that 1,200 persons arrested during the protests have been released as they had no significant role to play in the unrest.
He said a number of foreign nationals were also arrested during the protests on charges of “conspiracy and collusion to commit a crime against national security”.
According to reports, at least seven French nationals are currently lodged in Iranian jails on charges of “spying”. French President Emmanuel Macron has termed their imprisonment “unacceptable”.
Tuesday marks the second day of a three-day nationwide shutdown call given by an anonymous group.
The Iranian Interior Ministry said earlier this week that a total of 200 people have been killed since mid-September, including civilians and security forces.
Foreign-based NGOs, however, have put the death toll at more than 450, with the US and EU imposing a slew of human rights-related sanctions on Iranian officials and entities.