Iran hanged two men sentenced to death for blasphemy amid a recent surge in executions in the country after the pair allegedly disrespected the Islamic religion.
The BBC reported that Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli-Zare were executed at the Arak Prison in central Iran on Monday. The pair were arrested in 2020 for allegedly running a Telegram channel called “Criticism of Superstition and Religion” and operating dozens of social media accounts “dedicated to atheism and desecration of the sanctities.”
The men were held in solitary confinement for the first two months following their arrests and were initially denied access to a lawyer.
In 2021, the Arak Criminal Court convicted Mr. Mehrad and Mr. Fazeli-Zare on blasphemy charges and sentenced them to death, HRANA added. They were also given six-year sentences for “running groups to act against national security”.
The Supreme Court rejected their appeals against the verdicts and upheld their death sentences later that year, Mizan said, adding that both men had “clearly confessed to their crimes”.
The Mizan news agency of Iran’s judiciary confirmed the executions, describing the two men as having insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and promoted atheism.
According to Al Jazeera, a news outlet run by the Qatari government, Mehrad was allegedly filmed burning a copy of the Quran, the central religious text of Islam, as initially reported by Iran’s state-run news channel AlAlam. Members of the pair’s Telegram channel also reportedly expressed disagreements with Islam, with one member admitting to having burned religious books.
Human rights group say Iranian courts regularly fall far short of providing fair trials and use false “confessions” obtained under torture as evidence.
“The execution of Yousef and Sadrollah for ‘insulting the Prophet’ is not only a cruel act by a medieval regime, it is also a serious insult to the freedom of expression,” said Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Norway-based group Iran Human Rights.