A gathering of the families of drug-related prisoners sentenced to death in Iran has turned violent as law enforcement and security officers tried to break up the demonstration in front of the Ghezel Hesar prison near the capital, Tehran.
The U.S.-based activist group HRANA reported that the families, holding placards with the slogan “No To Execution,” demanded a reduction in the punishment of those accused of drug crimes and a halt to the carrying out of their death sentences. Many protest rallies have been held in Iran in recent years, but one opposing the death sentence is a rare act of defiance.
In videos of the January 25 protests posted on social media police officers can be seen dispersing the demonstrators, who identified themselves as relatives of those on death row, arresting some of them.
There were no details on whether anyone was injured or how many people were detained.
Iran has seen a sharp rise in the number of executions since September 2021 after Ebrahim Raisi, a former head of the judiciary, became president and former Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei took over the judiciary.
The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran exceeded 500 last year, and officials have been pushing for harsh penalties, including the death sentence, for protesters at the center of unrest sweeping the country over the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged violation of the country’s head scarf law.
On January 10, UN human rights chief Volker Turk accused Tehran of “weaponizing” the death penalty to quell dissent amid months of unrest over the death of Amini.
Four convicted protesters have already been executed, and others remain on death row after being handed death sentences.