Iran Hands Out More Death Sentences to Protesters

Sentences amplify fears that the Iranian state will use executions to suppress the demonstrations

WSJ’s Shelby Holliday breaks down the history and symbolism behind three key themes that have emerged from the recent protests in Iran. [Noah Friedman]

Iran sentenced three more protesters to death Wednesday, heightening fears that the government will resort to executions to intimidate Iranians from rallying against the country’s clerical leadership, as state media accused shooters of killing several civilians in the southern part of the country.

The three unidentified individuals were found guilty of corruption on earth or waging war against God for alleged offenses that included killing or injuring security forces, damaging public property and endangering national security, according to the judiciary’s news agency, Mizan.

Wednesday’s announcement brings the number of people sentenced to death in connection with the recent protests to at least five, according to judiciary statements, but scores more could be at risk of facing similar penalties.

On Wednesday evening, state media said two gunman on motorbikes shot at security forces with Kalashnikov rifles, killing five people.

“Following a call by the opposition and anti-revolution groups, armed terrorists took advantage of the [demonstrations] of some people and carried out a shooting,” state news agency IRNA said.

State media also broadcast footage from Izeh of what it said was an Islamic seminary set on fire by rioters. Iran has previously issued harsh punishments to protesters accused of disturbing public order or even terrorism. In late October, Iran blamed protesters for paving the way for a shooting in the southern city of Shiraz, in which 15 people were killed. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.

The fear that the state will use death sentences to quash protests is compounded by President Ebrahim Raisi’s history as a member of a panel that in the late 1980s condemned thousands of alleged dissidents to death following an eight-year war with Iraq. Amnesty International at the time called the decisions about which prisoners should be executed “arbitrary in the extreme.”