Iran Human Rights (IHR); April 1, 2021: In 2020, Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari, arrested in relation to the nationwide protests in Iran, were both executed on charges of murdering security officials; charges that were vehemently denied by them and with no evidence against them. At least eight other protesters are still at risk of execution.
In 2020, Ruhollah Zam, a journalist with refugee status in France who was kidnapped from Iraq and transferred to Iran, was executed.
The 13th Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran provides an insight into the executions related to the nationwide protests in Iran and that of journalist Ruhollah Zam.
Thousands of protesters were arrested following the 2017-2019 nationwide protests across Iran. On 30 June 2020, IHR issued a statement warning of the possible secret execution of protesters after Isfahan’s Chief Justice announced that 8 protesters had been convicted of efsad-fil-arz in a speech prior to Friday prayer sermons on 26 June. Initially denied by Iran’s authorities, IHR confirmed on 10 July that the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentences of three protesters, Saeed Tamjidi, Amirhossein Moradi and Mohammad Rajabi (more details on their case below), which also triggered the mass online “Don’t execute” campaign.
On 26 July, referring to the Isfahan Chief Justice’s Friday sermon speech, IHR revealed that it had obtained document verification that 5 protesters sentenced to death on security charges in Isfahan had received confirmation of their sentences. Their names were confirmed as Mehdi Salehi Ghaleh Shahrokhi, Mohammad Bastami, Majid Nazari Kondari, Hadi Kiani and Abbas Mohammadi. The Isfahan Province Judiciary issued a statement the next day, which read : “News published by some dissident media and hyped up on social media ascribing the Chief Justice of Isfahan Province as confirming the sentences of eight protesters arrested in 2017-2019 are complete lies and Supreme Judicial Authorities have not upheld any such sentences.” Armed with the evidence and supported by the “Don’t execute” movement, we were determined to stop their executions when we discovered that a protester had been executed on false murder charges in Isfahan.
As qisas is a hadd punishment (a fixed punishment for offences mandated by Sharia), it removes any discretion and responsibility from authorities and has thus been used to justify executions that would otherwise be unjustifiable. Protesters Mostafa Salehi and Navid Afkari, whose cases were disconcertingly similar, were executed after being sentenced to qisas for murder, in cases that outraged the world and exposed the Islamic Republic’s use of the death penalty to silence dissent.
Mostafa Salehi: the protester executed in silence
Mostafa Salehi was a 33 year-old construction worker who also worked as a taxi driver on the side to support his wife and two small children when he was arrested in Kahrizsang, Isfahan during the December 2016/2017 nationwide protests. He was charged with “murdering an IRGC officer named Sajjad Shahsanayi'' during the protests and sentenced to qisas in February 2019 by the First Branch of the Criminal Court of Isfahan Province, presided over by Judge Morad Ali Najafpour, a sentence later confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Mostafa had denied allegations of involvement in the murder of the guard at all stages of the trial. Mr Shahsanayi’s family lawyer, Mr Arab, stated in court that Salehi “Denies all charges… and keeps saying to bring a witness or check the surveillance cameras.” An informed source told IHR that Mostafa had been kept in the solitary confinement cells of the IRGC intelligence and under duress, to make a forced confession. According to the source, the only evidence used against Mostafa was the testimony of a female detainee who was forced to make confessions and give incriminating accounts against other detained protesters. Under pressure from authorities, his case was kept out of the media and Mostafa was executed in Isfahan Central Prison on 5 August 2020.
Navid Afkari: “They’re looking for necks to fill their nooses”
Navid Afkari was a 27 year-old plasterer and wrestler who had won medals in national competitions. He was arrested along with his two brothers, Vahid and Habib, a month and a half after taking part in the August 2018 protests in Shiraz and charged for the murder of a security guard at a government building who, according to case documents, was tasked with identifying protesters. He was sentenced to death for the same case by Branch One of the Revolutionary Court on charges of moharebeh and sentenced to qisas by Branch One of the Criminal Court of Fars Province, amongst other charges. IHR published the court documents and the breaches against Navid and his brothers at every stage of their detention and legal proceedings. Their lawyer of choice resigned after being threatened by judicial authorities and replaced by appointed lawyers.
In recordings of his trial published by IHR, Navid can be heard defending himself and demanding to see the CCTV footage used as evidence against him. The brothers said they had been tortured and coerced through threats against their family to force them into confessing to what they called lies. IHR refuted the judiciary’s claims after the court documents and evidence were released again on 1 September. Navid was transferred to the punitive solitary confinement ward on 3 September and his brothers on 5 September and his relatives told IHR that Navid had been beaten during his transfer. Meanwhile, a mass international campaign was taking place with sports federations, personalities, politicians and celebrities alike joining in to try and save his life. Navid Afkari was executed at Shiraz Central Prison on 12 September 2020.
In a statement condemning his execution, UN human rights experts said: “The execution of Afkari, the second execution in connection to protests in the last two months, together with the alarming frequency of death penalty sentences handed to protesters raises concerns about the authorities’ future response to protests and to any expression of opposition or dissenting opinion.” Vahid and Habib remain behind bars.
At risk of execution
Saeed Tamjidi, Amirhossein Moradi and Mohammad Rajabi
Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi, and Saeed Tamjidi were arrested for participating in the November 2019 protests and sentenced to death, 222 lashes and a total of 38 years in prison by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, presided over by Judge Salavati, in February 2020. They were charged for “Participating in destruction and arson with intent to oppose the system” and “Armed action”.
Saeed and Mohammad had previously fled to Turkey after hearing news of Amirhossein’s arrest, where they requested asylum and were even interviewed. However, following President Rouhani’s trip to Turkey, security forces deported the two back to Iran by land. Multiple informed sources told IHR that the three protesters had been tortured to extract forced confession in prison.
On 10 July, Saeed and Mohammad’s lawyer Mostafa Nili tweeted that his clients’ death sentences had been upheld by the Supreme Court, but he would be requesting a retrial as he had been denied access to the case and the opportunity to represent his clients.
Following a historic mass online campaign, 4 lawyers representing the three protesters issued a statement announcing that their request for a retrial had been accepted by the Supreme Court on 20 July. State owned ISNA (Iranian Students’ News Agency) reported on 6 December that:“On the orders of the Head of the Supreme Court, the request for a retrial in the case of the three people sentenced to death in the November incidents has been granted by the Supreme Court and the case will be sent to a court of equal standing for re-examination.” According to one of their lawyers, Babak Paknia, their trial, scheduled for 10 March 2021, was postponed on the day due to “the change of the head of Branch 23 of the Revolutionary Court” where their case was due to be heard.
Mehdi Salehi Ghaleh-Shahrokhi, Mohammad Bastami, Majid Nazari Kondari, Hadi Kiani and Abbas Mohammadi: each sentenced to death twice
Mehdi Salehi Ghaleh-Shahrokhi, 37, Mohammad Bastami, 28, Majid Nazari Kondari, 26, Hadi Kiani, 30, and Abbas Mohammadi, 29, are Isfahan natives who were arrested in relation to the December 2017/January 2018 nationwide protests. On 30 June 2020, IHR issued a statement warning of the possible secret execution of protesters after Isfahan’s Chief Justice announced that 8 protesters had been convicted of efsad-fil-arz charges in a speech prior to Friday prayer sermons on 26 June.
On 26 July 2020, IHR revealed that the five protesters had been sentenced to death by Branch Two of the Tehran Revolutionary Court in February and, according to the judgment obtained by IHR, the Supreme Court had upheld their death sentences on charges including baghy through “Effective efforts and activities to advance the rioters’ goals”, moharebeh through “Using firearms and intending to deprive the community of security and shooting at officials”, efsad-fil-arz through “Disrupting public security and directing the rioters to disrupt public order and safety and disturbing public opinion”.
Hours after the publication, the judiciary issued a statement denying the claims. According to IHR sources, the defendants had told the court that they had been tortured to make false confessions and did not have access to lawyers of their choice throughout the legal proceedings.
 Read more in the “Forgiveness Movement” section of this report.
 See the “Forgiveness Movement” section of this report.