Dec 21, 2022
Despite criticism at home and abroad, the Iranian government continues to hold firm on Revolutionary Courts and death sentences.
So far, the Iranian regime has carried out two death sentences, one week apart, imposed on people who had participated in nationwide anti-government protests. The demonstrations are taking place in different parts of the country, with varying intensity, and are now in their fourth month.
The two men executed, Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard, were in their early twenties.
The country's Revolutionary Court accused Rahnavard of killing two members of the security forces with a knife and injuring four more. Shekari had been charged with injuring a member of the Basij militia with a knife and blocking a road.
Both men were convicted soon after their arrests, of "moharebeh" — "waging war against God" — an offense enshrined in Iranian criminal law. Like that of "spreading corruption on Earth," this offense can cover any threat to public order, with or without the use of a specific weapon.
Simply "spreading lies" is enough to qualify as "corruption." Crucially, these two offenses allow for a swift conviction and the imposition of the death sentence by the Revolutionary Courts.
Revolutionary Courts and the consolidation of power
In the case of Mohsen Shekari, simply holding a knife on the street was enough to condemn him to death. The judge said that, in doing so, he had "caused fear among the population," explains Mahmood Reza Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights.
He recalled another case that highlighted the blatant arbitrariness of such rulings. "Some years ago," he says, "a person close to [Iran's religious leader Ayatollah] Khamenei's circle used a revolver to shoot at a car following a car accident, in the middle of the street. The court dropped all charges against him."
However, the institution of the Revolutionary Courts is coming in for criticism in Iran, according to Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).
The newspaper reports that these latest death sentences have triggered a discussion about whether the Revolutionary Courts should still exist, 43 years after the revolution. Lawyers are saying they are illegal, and have called for them to be abolished.
Iran's chief justice, Gholam-Hossein Eje'i, has rejected this demand. His response, as quoted in the FAZ, was: "Some people criticized the existence of the Revolutionary Courts as early as 1980, saying that after the victory of the Revolution they were not needed anymore. Time, however, has shown how effective and essential they are for the Revolution."
An Iranian hacker group obtained documents from the Fars news agency indicating that the Iranian judiciary is accusing around 80 of those arrested of "waging war against God" or "spreading corruption on Earth."
The French newspaper Le Monde writes that these documents show the ultra-conservative parliamentary group "Coalition Council of Islamic Revolution Forces" was already pushing for the imposition of as many death sentences as possible, even before the two young men were executed.
According to rights group Amnesty International (AI), in mid-December at least 26 people arrested in connection with the protests were in grave danger of being executed.