Iran executes karate champion and volunteer children’s coach amid crackdown on protests

Iran executes karate champion and volunteer children’s coach amid crackdown on protests

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Iran on Saturday hanged two young men, one a karate champion, the other a volunteer children’s coach. This brings the total number of people known to have been executed in connection with the protests that have gripped the country since September to four.

They were Mohammed Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini hanged early Saturday morning, state-run Fars News reported. The pair, who allegedly took part in anti-regime protests last year, were convicted of killing Seyed Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the country’s Basij paramilitary force, in Karaj on November 3, according to Iran’s Mizan judicial news agency.

Mohammad Hossein Agassi, a lawyer representing Karami, tweeted on Saturday that Karami had not been granted final rights to speak with his family before his execution. The lawyer added that Karami went on a dry food hunger strike on Wednesday as a form of protest against officials not allowing Agassi to represent him.

Another 41 protesters have received death sentences in recent months, according to statements from both Iranian officials and Iranian media reviewed by CNN and 1500Tasvir, but the number could be much higher.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was not given last rights to speak with his family before his execution, according to a lawyer who represented him.

Karami, 21, was an Iranian-Kurdish karate champion who had the Olympic rings tattooed on the inside of his arm. His cousin told CNN that Karami was a brave, intelligent boy who started karate at the age of 11. He joined the Iranian youth national team and later won in the national championship.

Last month, Karami’s parents posted a video on social media pleading with the state to spare his life. His father said: “My son is among Iran’s karate champions and has several national titles and was the fourth-ranked member of Iran’s national team… Please cancel the execution order.”

Karami was sentenced on December 5, less than a week after his trial began in Tehran for the alleged killing of paramilitaries. Amnesty described the trial as “not resembling a meaningful legal proceeding”. His family claims he was tortured in prison and denied access to a lawyer.

Amnesty International published a quote from Karami’s father, which read: “Every morning I go to court and prison and then I walk aimlessly in the streets. I went to the jail this morning, but the assistant prosecutor who is in the jail was not there. I was told that I should stop going there if my case was related to the protests. They don’t give you any answer.

“Every night I am terrified that they will tell me the news of my child’s execution,” his father said. “I’ve lost hope… my child has been sentenced to death and they could execute him at any moment.”

Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, 20, was remembered for volunteering with the children of a German parliamentarian who defended his case.

“The story of #SeyedMohammadHosseini is so sad. He lost both his parents. He visited their graves every Thursday. He trains kids for free,” Ye-One Rhie wrote on Twitter.

Hosseini was arrested on his way to visit his parents’ graves, according to Ye-One Rhie. His brother was also taken away and is missing, the parliamentarian added.

According to Amnesty, Hosseini was sentenced at the same hearing as Karami and two other men who were also sentenced to death, Hamid Gare-Hasalu and Hossein Mohammadi.

Amnesty says the convictions were based on coerced confessions.

“Before the group trial began, state media broadcast the defendants’ forced ‘confessions’ and described them as ‘murderers’, in violation of their rights to the presumption of innocence and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” Amnesty wrote.

Meanwhile, the political editor of the independent Iranian newspaper Etemad Online, Mehdi Beik, was detained on Thursday, according to a tweet by the publication. The arrest came amid a crackdown by Iranian authorities following protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last year after she was arrested by the state’s morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly. Since then, protests have coalesced around a range of grievances against the authoritarian regime.

Mehdi Beik is seen in a photo posted by his wife Zahra Beik after his arrest.

Beik was detained by officials of Iran’s Ministry of Information, his wife Zahra Beik said on Friday.

He was arrested after “interviewing the families of several of those arrested in the ongoing demonstrations,” according to pro-reform IranWire.

“The journalist’s cell phone, laptop and belongings were confiscated,” his wife tweeted. It is not yet clear why Baek was arrested.

Iranian authorities have previously arrested some individuals for their criticism of the government’s response to the demonstrations.

One of the most famous Iranian actresses, Tarane Aliduosti, was released on bail on Wednesday, state news agency ISNA said after she was released arrested following her criticism of the execution of a protester.

Known as a feminist activist, Aliduosti posted a photo on Instagram last month of herself without an Islamic hijab and holding a sign reading “Women, Life, Freedom” to show her support for the protest movement.

Aliduosti has not been formally charged but was initially arrested due to a “lack of evidence for her claims” in connection with her protest against the hanging of Mohsen Shekari last month in the first known protest-related execution.

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