Iran Hints at Stopping Execution of Dissidents After Trump Joins Twitter Protest

Newly appointed Iranian new judiciary chief ultra-conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi (2nd R) attends a session of Iran's influential experts assembly in Tehran on March 12, 2019. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

The Iranian judiciary on Wednesday hinted that it might halt the executions of three young men arrested during protests against the regime in November.

Iran’s Supreme Court upheld their death sentences on Tuesday, triggering an enormous international outcry and the creation of a #StopExecutionsInIran social media hashtag that accumulated millions of posts, including a contribution from President Donald Trump.

Iran’s Internet censors apparently tried to stifle the online outrage by choking off-network traffic, but they could not suppress what students of Iranian social media described as an “unprecedented” backlash.

The BBC noted several influential Iranian celebrities nevertheless joined the campaign asking for the executions of Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Saeed Tamjidi to be halted. A few Iranian political figures got involved as well, essentially warning that killing the three men might be a line the regime could not cross without sparking a revolution.

On Wednesday, the chief of the Iranian judiciary said he was willing to consider requests from the three prisoners for their death sentences to be reviewed.

The three men, all in their mid-20s, were arrested during the huge anti-regime protests last year that were triggered by a 300 percent hike in gasoline prices. Over 7,000 other protesters were arrested, and human rights groups believe at least 300 were killed outright by Iranian security forces and paramilitary death squads.

The three were convicted in one of Iran’s notorious “closed trials” on charges of sabotage, subversion, and armed robbery, the latter allegation based on Moradi supposedly trying to steal a camera from a security officer. They were also charged with trying to illegally flee the country to escape justice, as two of them sought asylum in Turkey but were quickly deported back to Iran.

Amnesty International (AI) denounced the trial of the three demonstrators as “grossly unfair,” noting they were denied access to legal counsel and coerced into giving televised “confessions.” AI called on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to “quash the death sentences” immediately:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailed allegations of torture, including beatings and electric shocks, and quoted family members and legal representatives complaining they were not even allowed to hear the full list of indictments against the prisoners before they were sentenced to death.

“Iran’s version of ‘accountability’ is apparently sentencing people involved in protests in unfair trials rather than investigating the overwhelming evidence of security forces’ excessive use of force and the death of hundreds of protesters who were shot dead by bullets,” Tara Sephehri Far of HRW said.

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