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Source: The Guardian

Nov 2, 2023

Iranian mother jailed for 13 years after denouncing death of son shot at protest

Mahsa Yazdani convicted of blasphemy and ‘insulting supreme leader’ as Iran regime targets families of those killed in protests

By Deepa Parent

A mother in Iran, whose son was reportedly killed after being shot repeatedly at close range by security forces, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison by an Iranian court after she demanded justice for her child on social media.

Mahsa Yazdani, whose 20-year-old son Mohammad Javad Zahedi was killed at an anti-regime protest in September 2022, was convicted on charges of blasphemy, incitement, insulting the supreme leader, and spreading anti-regime propaganda, according to human rights groups and family members. They say she will serve the first five years with no chance of parole.

Videos and photos of her son’s body riddled with shotgun pellets went viral on social media during the mass protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman who was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” for not wearing her hijab correctly.

According to his family, Zahedi was shot several times at close range in the back and head. A medical examiner’s report confirmed he was killed by numerous shotgun pellets.

Mahsa Yazdani demanding justice for her sonm who was shot at close range. Photograph: Twitter

After her son was killed, Yazdani publicly condemned the regime’s attacks on protesters and called for justice for her son and others killed in the demonstrations. Her trial and sentencing came very soon after she was arrested at her home on 22 August.

Hours after the news of the sentence was published, Yazdani’s daughter, Mitra Zahedi, shared a post on Instagram that read: “What will happen to my three-year-old brother? Who is responsible for all this cruelty?”

Reacting to the conviction and long prison sentence, the Center for Human Rights in Iran said: “We strongly denounce the disgraceful sentencing of Mahsa Yazdani, a grieving mother seeking justice for her son.”

It added: “Hundreds of mothers in Iran have been blocked from pursuing justice for their murdered loved ones while themselves being persecuted for simply raising their voices.”

The sentencing comes as Iranian authorities appear to be actively pursuing the families of those killed during the protests. Yazdani’s sentencing is “another clear sign the authorities are placing relentless pressure upon the families of victims”, said Skylar Thompson, of the civil rights group Human Rights Activists in Iran.

In May 2023, the father and sister of Abolfazl Adinezadeh, a 17-year-old shot dead by security forces, were charged with “anti-government propaganda”, according to their lawyer. Since then, a source told the Guardian, the family has been subjected to ongoing raids and threats from the regime’s agents.

Human rights activists have also raised concerns for Mashallah Karami, the father of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, a 22-year-old karate champion executed in January after being arrested at a street protest and accused of killing a security officer.

His father, who had publicly begged for mercy for his son before his execution and called for justice for him and other young protesters on social media, was reportedly arrested in August and is believed to remain in detention.

The Guardian spoke to several families of protesters killed or arrested in the 2022 hijab protests, who said that they feared further arrests and convictions as the regime attempts to silence families.

Speaking on a condition of anonymity, a close relative of Kumar Daroftadeh, a 16-year-old killed by the security forces in October 2022, said: “Mothers are being persecuted for seeking justice for their sons murdered by the regime. We are a nation that has paid by our blood for freedom.

“We will continue to fight for our lost loved ones because blood can’t be washed away with threats. I commend brave mothers like Mahsa Yazdani, who are keeping the fight alive.”

Human rights groups in Iran believe more than 380 protesters were killed and more than 16,000 arrested during protests in the months following Amini’s death. The figure is disputed by the authorities.

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