TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran executed two people on Thursday who were sentenced to death in trials that followed the Islamic Republic’s disputed June presidential election which caused bloody opposition protests, Iranian media said.
It was the first report of executions of people tried in connection with the election unrest and may further increase tension in Iran ahead of possible new anti-government demonstrations next month.
There was no immediate official comment on the media reports which came as Internet messages circulated about possible new rallies on Feb. 11, when Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
The two who were hanged were among a group of 11 people sentenced to death on charges including waging war against God, trying to overthrow the Islamic establishment and being members of armed groups, the ISNA students’ agency said.
Other Iranian media also carried reports on the executions.
The lawyer of one of those executed said 19-year-old Arash Rahmanipour was detained before the election, describing the charges as “political” and the verdict as “illegal and unjust.” “An execution with this speed and rush has only one explanation … the government is trying to prevent the expansion of the current (opposition) movement through the spread of fear and intimidation,” lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh said. “He was never granted the right to defend himself freely and I could not defend him (adequately),” she told Reuters.
The vote, which was followed by huge opposition protests, plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and exposed widening establishment divisions. It also further strained relations with the West.
In the most serious violence since the aftermath of the poll, eight people were killed in clashes between opposition supporters and security forces in late December.
“Following the riots and anti-revolutionary measures in recent months … a Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court branch considered the cases of a number of accused and handed down the execution sentences against 11 of those,” ISNA said. “The sentences against two of these people … were carried out today at dawn and the accused were hanged,” it said.
It named the two as Rahmanipour and Mohammad Reza Alizamani. They were among more than 100 people who were put in the dock in post-election mass trials in August.
“The sentences for the other nine of the accused in recent months’ riots are at the appeal stage … upon confirmation, measures will be undertaken to implement the sentences,” ISNA said, giving no details on where the executions took place.
ISNA said the charges included membership of two anti-revolutionary groups, including a pro-monarchy association Iran says is supported by its Western foes.
Iran’s English-language Press TV said the two were found guilty of being members of Iran’s Kingdom Assembly of Iran, which it said was involved in a deadly mosque bombing in 2008.
In August, the Farsi-language state broadcaster, IRIB, said Rahmanipour confessed to links with Western countries and that he had received training in how to create instability in Iran during the election.
“Two weeks before the election we had a mission to put bombs in various places and we were ordered to carry out terrorist acts on election day,” IRIB quoted him as telling a court. “Our mission was to create disorder,” he said, adding they were arrested before carrying out the attacks.
The reformist opposition says the June election was rigged to secure hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. The authorities deny this.
Officials have portrayed the protests as a foreign-backed bid to undermine Iran’s Islamic system of government.