Iranwire – Iranian authorities hanged seven men on drugs and rape charges, a Norway-based human rights group said, after the UN human rights chief warned of a “frighteningly” high number of executions in the country.
Three men were executed on drug-related charges in Qezelhesar prison in the city of Karaj, near Tehran, Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO said on May 10, adding that four others were hanged on rape charges in Rajai Shahr prison, also in Karaj.
The judiciary’s Mizan Online website confirmed the three executions on drug charges, saying the convicts were “members of the Panjak gang, the largest cocaine distribution cartel, which was one of the main drug cartels in the country.”
“Six members of the gang were arrested in 2014,” Mizan said, adding, “At the time of arrest, one kilogram of cocaine, opium and methamphetamine were recovered from the members of this gang.”
There has been no official confirmation so far of the four executions on rape charges.
IHR said the latest hangings bring the number of executions in Iran in the last 12 days to at least 64.
“The killing machine of the government is accelerating — its goal is to intimidate the people and its victims are the weakest people in society,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam.
In a tweet, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric, Molavi Abdulhamid, described the recent “arbitrary” executions as “extremely shocking.”
“It is evident that many of the country’s current difficulties and challenges stem from the unjustified shedding of blood and the suffering of the oppressed,” the 74-year-old cleric said.
Molavi, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of the south-eastern city of Zahedan, has been a key dissenting voice inside Iran since the eruption of nationwide protests in September 2022 demanding fundamental economic, social and political changes.
The Islamic Republic, one of the world’s top executioners, executed at least 582 people last year, the highest number of executions in the country since 2015 and well above the 333 recorded in 2021, IHR and Paris-based Together Against the Death Penalty said in a joint report in April.
But the pace of executions has been even more intense in 2023, with IHR now counting at least 218 executions so far this year.
Rights groups accuse the Islamic Republic of using the death penalty as a means to intimidate Iranians after nationwide protests erupted in September 2022 following the death in custody of 22-year old Mahsa Amini.
Campaigners have warned that members of ethnic minorities — in particular the Baluch minority, who unlike most Iranian are mostly Sunni — have been disproportionately targeted by the spate of executions.
On May 9, UN human rights chief Volker Turk slammed the Islamic Republic for its “abominable record” on the death penalty and called on authorities to end capital punishment as the number of executions is “frightening.”
The previous day, the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) described the wave of executions as a “killing spree” aimed at silencing dissent.