Protesters arrested in Iran face a justice system stacked against them

Iranians protest in Tehran to decry the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the “morality police.” The nationwide protests are now in their eighth week. (AP)

A young Iranian man accused of lighting a trash can on fire during a protest could face death row for “waging war against God.”

Two female journalists who helped break the story of Mahsa Amini — the 22-year-old woman who died in the custody of Iran’s “morality police” — have been in jail since late September, accused without evidence of being CIA agents.

In a hearing without his lawyer, a 22-year-old protester was sentenced to death for committing “corruption on earth,” his mother said in an online plea. After an uproar, the judiciary denied that a sentence had been issued.

This is what justice looks like in Iran, where the trials of protesters, bystanders and chroniclers of the current uprising have begun. There is little expectation of due process in a judicial system dominated by the security services and stacked against the accused.

More than 15,000 Iranians have been arrested and several hundred killed in nearly two months of protests, the activist news agency Hrana estimates. The demonstrations that began in response to the alleged police killing of Amini have cascaded into a broad movement against the country’s clerical leaders. Authorities have demanded harsh punishments for protesters, whom they call “rioters,” and have sought to blame the unrest on foreign powers.

Some of the detained are released with a fine. Others are tried in a criminal court. But political prisoners typically face the feared revolutionary courts, a parallel system created to protect the Islamic republic, said Hadi Enayat, a political sociologist specializing in Iranian law.