Iran hangs 2 in rare blasphemy case as executions spike
Iran hanged two men convicted of blasphemy on Monday, authorities said, carrying out rare death sentences for the crime as executions spike across the Islamic republic after months of unrest.
Iran remains one of the world’s top executioners, having put to death at least 203 prisoners since the start of this year alone, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights. But executions for blasphemy remain rare, with previous cases having seen sentences reduced by authorities.
The two executed men, Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare, died in Arak prison in central Iran. They had been arrested in May 2020, accused of being involved in a channel on the messaging app Telegram titled “Criticism of superstition and religion,” according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Both men faced months of solitary confinement and were unable to contact their families, the commission said.
Iran’s Justice Mizan news agency confirmed the executions, describing the pair as having insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad and promoting atheism. Mizan also accused them of burning a Quran, Islam’s holy book, although it is unclear whether the men did this or whether such images were shared on the Telegram channel.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, who heads Iran Human Rights, denounced the executions as revealing the “medieval nature” of Iran’s theocracy.
“The international community must show by its reaction that executions for expressing an opinion are intolerable,” he said in a statement. “The refusal of the international community to react decisively is a green light for the Iranian government and all its like-minded citizens around the world.”
It was not immediately clear when Iran carried out its last execution for blasphemy. Other countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, also allow the death penalty for blasphemy.
The spate of executions, including of members of ethnic minority groups in Iran, comes as months-long protests over the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after his arrest by the country’s vice squad have escalated. cooled. Already, at least four people accused of alleged crimes during the protests have been put to death. The protests, which reportedly saw more than 500 people and 19,000 others arrested, marked one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In 2022, Iran executed at least 582 people, compared to 333 people in 2021, according to Iran Human Rights. Amnesty International’s latest report on executions places Iran as the world’s second-largest executioner, just behind China, where thousands are believed to be put to death each year.