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Iran hangs two men for blasphemy

Iran's flag (Dreamstime/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran has executed two men who had been sentenced to death for using social media to promote “atheism and insulting religious and Islamic sanctities.”

The executions of Yousef Mehrdad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare were announced on May 8 by the judiciary’s news website, Mizan, which did not say when the two men were executed.

Zare’s and Mehrdad’s cases reportedly date to 2019, when charges were filed against them in the Arak Revolutionary court. Mehrdad, a father of three young children, was accused of online blasphemy, as well as having burned a Koran. Zare was reported to have confessed to insulting the prophet and Islam.

Their hangings add to a growing list that has seen Iran execute one person every six hours in the past two weeks, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization.

On May 6, a Swedish-Iranian dissident who went missing from a Turkish airport two years ago before turning up in Iranian custody was executed on terrorism charges.

Habib Chaab, a founder and former leader of a separatist group called the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), had been accused of leading a terrorist group and sentenced to death for being “corrupt on Earth,” a capital offense under Iran’s strict Islamic laws.

The ASMLA was blamed for a bomb attack on an annual military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz in 2018 that killed at least two dozen people and injured scores more.

The raft of executions, coming amid continuing protests against Iran’s clerical establishment, has led to an outcry from rights groups and calls by UN experts on Shi’ite-majority Iran to stop the persecution and harassment of religious minorities.

Iran Human Rights, which maintains a running log of executions in Iran, said 205 people have been executed in Iran so far this year, most of them on drug charges. Half of the more than 40 people killed in the past two weeks belonged to the Baluch ethnic minority, according to the rights group.

In March, Amnesty International accused Iran of executing members of ethnic minorities as a “tool of repression.”

Maulvi Abdul Hamid, the influential Sunni Baluch leader of Iran, last week condemned the wave of executions said that the Islamic republic had made capital punishment an “art.”