Iran hanged two men convicted of blasphemy in a rare death penalty for the crime, authorities said, as executions surged in the Islamic Republic following months of unrest.
Iran remains one of the world’s most powerful executioners, executing at least 203 prisoners since the start of the year, according to the Oslo-based Iranian human rights group. But executions for blasphemy remain rare, as authorities have commuted sentences in previous cases.
The two executed men, Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare, died in Arak prison in central Iran. They were arrested in May 2020 and accused of participating in a channel on the Telegram messaging app called Superstition and Religious Criticism, according to the USCIRF. Both were held in solitary confinement for months without contact with their families, the committee said.
Iran’s judiciary’s Mizan news agency confirmed the execution, saying the two had insulted the Prophet Muhammad and promoted atheism. Mizan also accused them of burning Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, but it was not clear whether the men claimed to have done so or shared such images via the Telegram channel.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Iran’s human rights chief, said the executions exposed the “medieval nature” of Iran’s theocracy.
“The international community must, by its response, demonstrate that executions for expression of opinion will not be tolerated,” he said in a statement. “The international community’s refusal to react decisively opens the door for the Iranian government and all like-minded Green light.”
It was unclear when Iran last carried out an execution for blasphemy. Other countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, also impose the death penalty for blasphemy.
The latest spate of executions, including of members of Iran’s minority ethnic group, comes after months of protests have cooled after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September by the country’s morality police. occasion.
At least four people accused of crimes during the demonstrations have been executed. A reported 500 people were killed and another 19,000 arrested in the protests, one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In 2022, Iran executed at least 582 people, up from 333 in 2021, according to Iranian human rights groups. Amnesty International’s latest report on executions ranks Iran as the world’s second-leading executioner after China, with thousands believed to be executed each year.