The Iranian government hanged five Kurdish activists, including a woman, on Sunday morning in the Evin prison in Tehran in what appeared to be an effort to intimidate protesters from marking the anniversary of last year’s huge anti-government rallies after the June 12 election.
Sunday’s executions brought the total for the weekend to 11. Six men convicted of drug smuggling were hanged on Saturday. For the past few years, Iran has had the highest number of government executions after China, according to Amnesty International.
Although the authorities announced that the five people executed Sunday had been found guilty of carrying out fatal bomb attacks, the executions were widely seen as intended to discourage people from rallying against the government on June 12. That will be the first anniversary of the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which many people believe was rigged.
At least four other activists, two Kurds and two protesters, were executed before another planned rally on Feb. 11. An additional 11 anti-government protesters have been sentenced to death. Human rights activists have expressed alarm at the executions and worry that more might be planned because those on Sunday, in February and in late 2009 were carried out hastily and without having been endorsed by Iran’s Supreme Court.
“The executions show that this government resorts to any kind of terror and violence to put down any challenge to its authority,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, which is based in New York. “This could lay the ground for the execution of postelection protesters.”
The five people hanged on Sunday were sentenced in 2008 after they were convicted of “Moharebeh,” or waging war against God, the ISNA news agency reported. The prosecutor’s office said all had been convicted of “involvement in terrorism activities, bombings in government buildings and different parts of the country,” ISNA said.
The four men were identified as Ali Heidarian, Farhad Vakili, Mehdi Islamian and Farzad Kamangar; the woman was identified as Shirin Elmholi.
Ms. Elmholi, 28, was arrested in 2008 and was charged with planting a bomb under a car that belonged to the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s hard-line military force.
Mr. Islamian was convicted of involvement in a mosque bombing in Shiraz, ISNA reported. Mr. Kamangar, Mr. Heidarian and Mr. Vakili were convicted of membership in an armed Kurdish rebel group, PJAK, an acronym that stands for the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan.
All denied the charges in public letters posted on Web sites and said they were tortured to force them to confess. Mr. Kamangar was assured in recent weeks that his death sentence had been suspended, his lawyer, Kahlil Bahramian, said.
“The judiciary is acting politically and has been taken over by the intelligence, security and military apparatus,” he said. In addition to many arrests, lengthy jail terms and executions for activists, the authorities have waged a campaign on state-run television with millions of viewers to project an image of authority. A recent television series called “Black Wisdom” shows the police’s capability to monitor e-mail messages and other contents of people’s computers.
“It is really scary to see how far they can penetrate into people’s lives,” said a viewer in Tehran, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution for his comments. “They clearly want to intimidate Internet users and their families.”
A former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, who has become a government critic, assessed the political situation as “not good” in a meeting with teachers last week despite government assertions that the situation had become normal since the demonstrations last summer.
“Unfortunately, if the situation continues like this,” the opposition Web site Jaras quoted Mr. Khatami as saying,“only a group who we do not approve and are unpredictable will continue to rule, and the establishment will pay even a heavier price.”