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Iran’s Regime Executes Juvenile Offender, Showing Its Behavior Is Unchanged During Pandemic

Iran’s regime Executes Juvenile Offender, showing its Behavior is Unchanged During Pandemic
Shayan Saeedpour

The Iranian regime executed a juvenile offender on Tuesday, drawing immediate condemnation from United Nations special rapporteurs and other human rights defenders. The UN experts declared in a statement that they were “shocked that the Iranian authorities have once again defied their international obligations” by executing a person who was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime for which he was convicted. 

Shayan Saeedpour was 17 years old when he was arrested for allegedy killing a man during a fight. He was initially handed a death sentence in October 2018, and the sentence was confirmed by the regime’s  Supreme Court in February 2019. The implementation of that sentence apparently came with little warning, as international human rights groups routinely issue public statements in an effort to put pressure on the judiciary when there is advanced warning of a juvenile offender’s execution. 

Iranian regime’s prisons have a long history of moving death row inmates into solitary confinement in preparation for their hangings, only to return them to their ordinary cells later on. In some cases, prisoners have been subjected to these transfers dozens of times, as a form of psychological torture that leaves them constantly aware of the fact that their execution could take place at any moment. 

Saeedpour however, was immediately executed, because the regime wanted to intimidate prisoners at Saqqez prison, where Shayan participated in a rebellion and briefly escaped from. Amnesty International estimates that at any given time, the regime has upwards of 90 such persons on death row. Only four juvenile offenders are known to have been publicly executed during the year 2019, but the Iranian regime is notoriously secretive about certain judicial procedures and punishments. 

This secretiveness results in a degree of uncertainty about the total number of prisoners, from all categories, who are executed each year. The organization Iran Human Rights estimates that there were 280 executions carried out in 2019, only a portion of which were publicly acknowledged by regime authorities. 

Sensitivity to the resulting reputation may inspire additional secretive behavior on the part of criminals like regime’s president Hassan Rouhani, who try repairing the regime’s reputation with the rest of the world. In other words, they are not against executions, but they try to do the cover-up in order to facilitate work of the regime’s apologists and those who seek appeasing mullahs.  

In order to increase oppression and intimidate Iranians, Ebrahim Raisi was appointed to head the judiciary by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. 

That move was widely condemned by human rights defenders and Iranian political activists, on account of Raisi’s long history of alleged human rights violations. Among other things, he is regarded as having been one of the leading perpetrators of a massacre of Iranian political prisoners in 1988, who were mostly members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK). Those mass executions are estimated to have 30,000 lives, and in the subsequent decades Raisi has defended this massacre and has called for even more corporal and capital sentences by Iranian judges. 

In view of that history, Raisi’s appointment and subsequent behavior have been identified as signs of a proud and explicit rejection of human rights standardsThis message was underscored by a series of violent crackdowns on dissent, including the regime’s reaction to nationwide protests in November 2019, which resulted, according to the MEK, in the death of an estimated 1,500 activists. Thousands of others were arrested, and many of these are still facing lengthy sentences for their peaceful activities. The regime also arrested over 12,000 protesters. All of them are still being held in prisons, amid the coronavirus outbreak.  

The ongoing sentencing of activists is a sign of that hardline turn in and of itself. After all, the threat of ordinary punishment is amplified by the effects of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak, which is, by some accounts, the worst in the world. According to the MEK, nearly 35,000 people have so far lost their lives due to the coronavirus. 

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has been carefully tracking the likely infection rate and death toll by referring to hospital records and eyewitness testimony from medical professionals and ordinary citizens and most importantly by the MEK news obtained from its vast network inside Iran 

The Iranian regime has never quite acknowledged the existence of outbreaks in prisons, but political prisoners have conveyed information to supporters in the civilian population that identifies a number of specific instances of infection while also underscoring the crowded and unsanitary conditions that facilitate the novel coronavirus’ spread. Preexisting knowledge of those conditions helped to make the prison population the target of intense activism soon after the presence of coronavirus was confirmed in Iran. Since then, the regime has taken steps to show that it is addressing the relevant concerns, but there has been a general lack of independent verification for claims that it has furloughed tens of thousands of prisoners. 

The coronavirus outbreak in prisons across Iran and the regime’s inaction have resulted in prisoners in several facilities stage riots and attempted breakoutsinstead of helping prisoners, the regime’s authorities fired on prisoners, killing at least 35 people, and possibly dozens more.  

The execution of Saeedpour, was implemented so abruptly because of his involvement in a March 27 escape during coronavirus-related inmate protests. A similar explanation has been offered with regard to the case of Mostafa Salimiwho after breaking out from prison in Saqqez, was re-arrested and executed. 

The letter explained that fellow inmates had seemingly disappeared, leading to concerns that they had been forcibly disappeared. On the surface, the declining prison population might have seemed to substantiate the regime’s claim to be implementing mass furloughs, but the letter’s authors noted that there was no indication of prior arrangements or transfer orders for the vanished prisoners. 

Just as the ongoing execution of juvenile offenders expresses disregard for international human rights standards, regime authorities explicitly refuse to allow international monitoring or to acknowledge independent findings regarding ongoing abuses and issues. Iran technically maintains its own domestic human rights monitor, but in practice his only role is to contradict foreign criticisms and levy comparable accusations against the US and its allies. 

Since the coronavirus outbreak the Iranian regime and its apologists have been trying to depict U.S. sanctions as the reason behind  the COVID-19’s high mortality rate in Iran.  

The regime’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic, with cover-up and oppression at its center, in general and its attitude toward prisoners, reject regime’s bogus claims and campaign of disinformation and deception of depicting U.S. sanction, which have crippled regime’s warmongering machine. In fact, humanitarian and medical aid are exempted from sanctions.  

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the NCRI’s president elect said in this regard: The mullahs’ regime has achieved nothing but suppression and executions. To terrorize the public and keep their grab on power, the mullahs are executing prisoners rather than releasing them. 

The clerical regime must free all prisoners and stop arrests, torture and executions in Iran. It must particularly refrain from preventing national solidarity efforts and the aid provided by rebellious youth to our compatriots, she added  

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