In this image, taken on December 30, 2017, university students participate in a protest inside Tehran University as riot police prevent them from joining other protesters, in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo, file)

NGO Human Rights Watch denounced this Friday the imposition of the death penalty in Iran on individuals who have charges related to participating in protests against corruption or the deterioration of the economy in the country.

According to the organization, Iranian courts have issued at least four death sentences since the end of June and has denounced that some defendants have had a limited access to their lawyers and have even been tortured or abused to get his confession.

« The Iranian version of ‘accountability’ is apparently to condemn people who have participated in protests in unfair trials rather than investigating the overwhelming evidence of the excessive use of force and the deaths of hundreds of protesters who were shot dead, « said HRW researcher in Iran Tara Sepehri Far.

The NGO opposed the death penalty « in any circumstance » when considering that it is something « inherently cruel and irreversible« 

« According to international standards, everyone has freedom of expression and to assemble peacefully in accordance with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Iran is a part, » said Human Rights Watch.

In this way, he has underlined that it must be ensured that any accused has access to a lawyer in all legal proceedings, both in the investigation and in the pre-trial proceedings and during the trial.

Furthermore, the organization also stressed the need for the Iranian authorities to use force only when strictly necessary, since the agents must minimize the damage.

« A fair trial and due process are essential for anyone charged with a crime., but in the cases in which it implies the death penalty, its lack can entail a serious and irreversible injustice ”, concluded Sepehri Far.

Journalist Ruhollah Zam (Ali Shirband / Mizan News Agency via AP)

The case of the journalist Ruhollah Zam, sentenced to death

Iran sentenced to death an exiled journalist for his internet work who helped inspire national economic protests that erupted in late 2017 across the country, authorities said. Ruhollah Zam had returned to the Islamic Republic under unclear circumstances and was arrested some time later..

The spokesperson for the judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, announced Zam’s death sentence in June, saying he had been convicted of « corruption on Earth”, A charge that is often used in cases of espionage or attempts to overthrow the government of Iran. It was not immediately clear when the sentence was handed down.

The journalist can appeal his sentence, issued by a Revolutionary Court. The name of his public defender was not immediately known.

Zam ran a site called AmadNews that posted videos and compromising information on Iranian officials. He was living and working in exile in Paris before being convinced to return to Iran., where he was arrested in October 2019.

Among the activities considered « illegal » by the regime, he managed a channel on the Telegram messaging application that spread messages about the protests in 2017 and shared videos of the demonstration. This gave him wide notoriety at the time, including among the Iranian authorities who wanted to end the mobilizations.

The initial spark for the 2017 protests was a sudden jump in food prices. Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are believed by many to have instigated the first protests in the conservative city of Mashhad in eastern Iran, trying to direct public anger towards the president. But as the protests spread from town to town, the reaction turned against the entire ruling class.

(With information from Europa Press)

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