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Executions for Adultery and Blasphemy in 2023

This is an extract from the 2023 Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran. To read the full report, please click here.

Executions for blasphemy in 2023

According to Article 262 of the IPC, insulting the prophet or blasphemy is punishable by death, however, Article 263 stipulates that “if the defendant states in court that they made the insulting statement out of anger, coercion, mistake or slip of the tongue, or quoting someone else…their death sentence shall be changed to a punishment of 74 lashes.” While many have been jailed for the charges over the decades, blasphemy executions are rare. In 2023, two men were executed for blasphemy charges in Iran for the first time in nine years.


Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare

Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare were arrested for their involvement in running Telegram channels including "Critique of Superstition and Religion.” Yousef, a father of three, was arrested at his home in Ardabil on 24 May 2020 and held incommunicado in solitary confinement for 8 months.[1] Sadrollah was also later arrested. They were sentenced to death for charges of “insulting the prophet, apostasy, accusing the prophet’s mother of adultery, desecrating the Quran by burning, insulting the sanctities and publishing private photos without permission.” Yousef and Sadrollah were executed in Arak Central Prison on 8 May 2023.[2]


Executions for adultery in 2023

Article 225 sets the punishment for zenaye mohseneh (adultery) for both men and women as stoning, but provides the courts the option to impose the death sentence by alternative means upon the approval from the Head of Judiciary “if it is not possible to perform stoning.” In 2023, an adultery execution was carried out for the first time since 2009.[3] At least five people are also currently at risk of execution for adultery charges. Leila Kholghi Sakachayi, Abolfazl Barat Vakili,[4] and two women and a man only identified as Sareh, Mitra and Meysam are all currently on death row for adultery.[5]


Ahmad Nikouyi

Ahmad Nikouyi was a 37-year-old man arrested for having consensual sex with a married woman. He was sentenced to death for zenaye mohseneh (adultery) charges and executed in Karaj Penitentiary on 24 April 2023. No information is available about the married woman in the case.[6]


[1] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/4710/

[2] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/5885/

[3] https://iranhr.net/fa/articles/1389/

[4] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/6283/

[5] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/4965/

[6] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/5842/