Iran executes first prisoner arrested over nationwide protests

Mohsen Shekari convicted of stabbing a security official and hanged on Thursday morning

Iran has executed a 23-year-old man who was convicted of stabbing a security official and frightening people by blocking a street during the recent nationwide protests.

The Islamic republic has arrested thousands of people since the demonstrations began in September but Mohsen Shekari, who was hanged in the early hours of Thursday, is the first person to be executed. It is unclear how many people remain in jail but at least 10 others are on death row, according to official media.

Shekari was arrested on September 25th in Sattarkhan, a middle-class neighbourhood in western Tehran. He was sentenced to death in a preliminary court last month after being convicted of moharebeh, or “fighting with God”. The supreme court upheld the verdict, local media said.

Mizan, the judiciary’s news agency, said on Thursday that Shekari had “frightened” people by blocking a street and not allowing about 150 cars to pass while he allegedly used “cold weapons” – typically a reference to large knives – to force people to join the protests.


He then allegedly stabbed a voluntary member of the Revolutionary Guards in the shoulder who tried to stop Shekari and reopen the street. The volunteer guard needed 13 stitches.

Shekari “confessed” that a man called Ali had promised to pay him money for attacking security forces, according to local media reports. The Islamic republic says the protests have been fuelled by outside forces including the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The opposition had previously warned that executions would fuel more demonstrations. The hanging comes as protests have subsided. Despite an opposition call for strikes, most businesses stayed open.

The protests, the longest-running yet in the Islamic republic, began in mid-September after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in police custody. Amini was arrested for failing to properly observe the official Islamic dress code.

Since then, about 200 people, including members of the security forces, have been killed during the protests, according to official figures. Amnesty International has put the number of deaths at 305, including 41 children.

While Iran has in practice, but not legally, relaxed its enforcement of the law on the compulsory Islamic covering for women, it has made no other concessions. Officials have instead vowed to bring those behind the protests to justice.

In a sign of how little it is prepared to compromise, Iran has sentenced five men to death for killing one voluntary member of the guards, Ruhollah Ajamian, in the city of Karaj, west of the capital Tehran, while 11 defendants, including three minors, have been sentenced to long jail sentences.

Masoud Setayeshi, Iran’s judiciary spokesman, said this week that “the judiciary will not make any concessions on the lives of 200 citizens” lost because of “provocations” by the opposition. “The trials of defendants will be held quickly, carefully and seriously, and those who have committed crimes will face punishment,” he added.

Reaction in Tehran to the execution has ranged from shock to anger and bewilderment. Hossein Ronaghi, a political prisoner who has been granted temporary release on health grounds, said in a post on Twitter that “the pain of such wounds are felt by the whole Iran, outraging all Iranian people”.

He added: “We will not close our eyes to executions. Hanging each protester will have serious consequences for you. Taking one’s life is taking the lives of all of us. You can erect execution poles for all of us.”

Shiva, a housewife, said she was “shocked” because “this man had not even killed anyone”. She added that “this is very frightening and I imagine the message is that of intimidation”.

Very little is known about Shekari. Unlike some other prisoners on death row, his family and friends have avoided publicity.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022