Iranian author sentenced to death after pleading for peace in Israeli TV interview

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Iran has sentenced a dissident author to death on “espionage” charges after he gave an interview earlier this year to an Israeli television channel, opposition-affiliated media reported on Thursday.

Iran International said Mehdi Bahman was arrested in October after speaking with Channel 13.

The report said that a Revolutionary Tribunal handed down the verdict. In recent days, at least 11 people have been sentenced to death for their role in protests and more than 100 face the death penalty, according to opposition groups.

Although Bahman was arrested after the protests began, his interview with Channel 13 was granted in April 2022 after he approached an Israeli woman to translate one of his books into Hebrew.

In the interview, Bahman criticized the Tehran regime and the imposition of Islamic law and called for normalization between Israel and Iran.

He told Channel 13 that he was not afraid of being arrested for talking to an Israeli channel.

Iran International said Bahman was an author and illustrator working for religious coexistence. In recent years, he has worked with dissident Shiite cleric Masoumi Tehrani to create works of art containing symbols of various religions and have gifted them to leaders of the Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, Sunni Islamic, Sabean Mandaean and Baha’i faiths in Iran. . .

The report said that Tehrani was also arrested shortly after Bahman. There was no word on his fate.

Several other opposition-affiliated media outlets also reported the arrest. But there was no official confirmation of the sentence from Iranian officials or state media.

Iran accuses Iran International, a Persian-language satellite news channel once majority-owned by a Saudi citizen, of fueling recent nationwide protests that escalated into deadly violence.

Iran International, for its part, describes itself as an “independent news organization that provides uncensored, accurate and impartial news to a Farsi-speaking audience inside and outside Iran”. He says he has “no affiliation or association” with any political group or any organization.

Protests have gripped Iran since the Sept. 16 death in custody of Iranian-Kurdish Mahsa Amini, 22, following her arrest in Tehran for an alleged violation of the country’s strict dress code for women.

Iran has tried to quell demonstrations and deter protests by imposing severe punishments, including the death penalty, with some public executions taking place.

At least 100 Iranians arrested in more than 100 days of nationwide protests face charges punishable by death, the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group said earlier this week.

In a report on Tuesday, the IHR identified 100 detainees who could face capital punishment, including at least 11 already sentenced to death.

Five detainees on the IHR list are women.

The report said many of them have limited access to legal representation.

“By issuing death sentences and carrying out some of them, they (the authorities) want people to go home,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

“It has some effect,” he told AFP, but “what we see in general is more anger at the authorities.”

“Their strategy of spreading fear through executions failed.”

A photo obtained from the Iranian Mizan news agency on December 12, 2022 shows the public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard, in the Iranian city of Mashhad. (Mizan News/AFP)

In an updated death toll released on Tuesday, the IHR said 476 protesters had been killed so far.

Iran’s main security body in early December released a toll of more than 200 people killed, including security agents.

At least 14,000 people have been arrested since unrest began across the country, the UN said last month.

Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, was publicly hanged from a crane on Dec. 12 after being convicted by a court in Mashhad of killing two members of the security forces with a knife.

Four days earlier, Mohsen Shekari, also 23, had been executed for wounding a member of the security forces.

The judiciary said nine others were sentenced to death over the protests, of which two had retrials.

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