Rights groups say the three were accused unfairly, made to confess under torture and convicted without sufficient evidence, to deter dissent. The executions followed “a grossly unfair trial that bore no resemblance to meaningful judicial proceedings,” rights group Amnesty International said in a statement.
Washington had warned Tehran against carrying out the sentences.
“The execution of these men — after what have been widely regarded as sham trials — would be an affront to human rights and basic dignity in Iran and everywhere,” State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said at a news briefing Thursday. “It is clear from this episode that the Iranian regime has learned nothing from the protests.”
Authorities carried out the executions, for which no public date had been set, behind prison walls Friday morning, after Iran’s high court rejected a final appeal, according to Mizan News Agency, which is affiliated with the country’s judiciary. Iran typically carries out executions by hanging.
Amnesty International, citing “informed sources,” found that interrogators had “suspended Majid Kazemi upside down and showed him a video of them torturing his brother, whom they also detained,” and subjected him to “mock executions at least 15 times by standing him on a chair and putting a rope around his neck.”
The three executions bring to seven the number of people put to death in connection with the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests over clerical rule. At least five others remain on death row, according to HRANA, a Virginia-based activist news agency focused on Iran. Dozens have been charged with capital offenses. Rights groups say that an estimated 500 demonstrators and bystanders also have been killed in the protests.
The ordeal of the three men drew widespread attention in Iran, as a sign of how far authorities could be willing to push their ongoing crackdown months after the protests dwindled.
“These executions are meant to prolong the Islamic Republic’s rule and only a high political cost can stop more protester executions,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the nongovernmental organization Iran Human Rights, wrote on Twitter.
The three were arrested Nov. 21 and accused of killing the two Basij members and the law enforcement officer six days earlier during protests in Isfahan, in central Iran. Authorities have accused demonstrators of being rioters and under the influence of foreign intelligence agencies.
The defendants were tried swiftly, not given access to their attorneys and convicted without any solid evidence linking them to the deaths, advocates said. One of the judges most associated with sentencing protesters to death found them guilty of “waging war against God.”
“The shocking speed at which these men were ushered to their deaths illustrates the Iranian authorities’ flagrant disregard for the rights to life and a fair trial,” Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement Friday.
Unrelated to the protest movement, Iran has carried out a “frightening” spate of executions this year, mainly of men from minority backgrounds charged with drug offenses, United Nations rights chief Volker Türk said recently.
Kazemi, 31, had a business making copper kitchenware, Mirhashemi, 36, was a karate champion and bodybuilder instructor, and Yaqoubi, 38, worked at a real estate company and supported his parents, according to news reports.
When the protest movement spread, Washington expressed support for the demonstrators and piled more economic sanctions on Iran. But some Iranians demanded that the international community do more to hold their country’s leaders accountable.
In its Friday statement, Amnesty International urged governments to denounce the executions and to charge Iranian officials with crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction — by which a state can prosecute certain serious crimes committed in other countries.
“Intensifying diplomatic/economic isolation should follow these state-sanctioned killings,” Hadi Ghaemi, head of the Washington-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, wrote Friday on Twitter. “Unless the Iranian authorities are met with serious consequences by the international community, hundreds of protester lives will be taken by their killing machine.”