Tehran, Iran – A court in Tehran has issued the first death sentence to a person involved in Iran’s ongoing protests and handed out prison terms to several others.
The Iranian judiciary said late on Sunday that an unnamed individual has been sentenced to execution for “setting fire to a government centre, disturbing public order and collusion for committing crimes against national security” in addition to “moharebeh” (waging war against God) and “corruption on Earth”.
Five more unnamed people, who authorities described as “rioters” – a word the government uses to describe the ongoing protests and those participating in them – were handed between five and 10 years in prison on national security-related charges.
The judiciary noted that the sentences were preliminary and would need to be confirmed by an appeals court for them to be considered final and for details to be made publically available.
The judiciary had previously said that more than 1,000 indictments have been issued in Tehran alone, with hundreds more brought against people arrested across the country.
The first public courts related to the protests were held in late October in Tehran, with leading members of the political establishment calling for fast-tracked courts to punish “rioters” and deter further protests.
Last week, the majority of the members of Iran’s parliament also called on the judiciary to “deal decisively with the perpetrators of these crimes [the protests] and with all those who assisted in the crimes and provoked rioters”.
The protests began in mid-September after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested in Tehran by morality police for alleged non-compliance with the dress code imposed by the state.
The protests have continued amid ongoing internet restrictions, while the third anniversary of the country’s November 2019 protests approaches later this week.
Those protests erupted across Iran after an overnight tripling of petrol prices and were accompanied by a total internet shutdown that lasted nearly a week.
On Sunday, a delegation sent by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, travelled to Zahedan in southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province to investigate events that took place on September 30, which left dozens dead.
On what is now known as “bloody Friday”, at least 66 people, including children, were killed by live ammunition, according to Amnesty International, with other sources claiming even higher death tolls.
Iranian authorities said “terrorists” opened fire on a police station, prompting security forces to respond.
But Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, has challenged that narrative, saying responsibility lies with the authorities and security forces.
Ismaeelzahi was present during a meeting on Sunday with the supreme leader’s representatives where, according to state-run IRNA, he again refuted authorities’ account that protesters were armed or assaulted the police station.
‘Another package of sanctions’
Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused the West, especially the United States and its regional ally Israel, of being behind the country’s unrest.
The US, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada have all levied human rights sanctions on Tehran, which has responded to them with sanctions of its own.
The EU is now preparing to finalise more sanctions on Monday, with the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell telling reporters that “another package of sanctions against the people responsible for repression of the demonstrators” is in the works.
Germany and Iceland last week submitted a request on behalf of 42 countries to hold a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Iran’s protests, prompting Tehran to condemn it and send a delegation to New York City.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday once more referred to the ongoing protests in Iran as a “revolution” days after he met with several female activists, a move the Iranian foreign ministry denounced as “shameful”.
“Something unprecedented is happening,” Macron said in an interview. “The grandchildren of the revolution are carrying out a revolution.”
Iran has also blamed Kurdish groups based in northern Iraq for inciting unrest, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Monday attacked positions and buildings used by Kurdish groups with missiles and drones.
A commander with the elite force had said on Sunday that more than 100 “anti-revolutionary” members of these groups have been arrested since September and firearms and ammunition have been confiscated from them.