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Iranian press review: Convicted protesters ‘to be executed soon’, says chief judge

Meanwhile, lawyers warn about extralegal trial of protestors, Qom witnesses heavy presence of morality police, and national football team coach rewarded with new contract
British-Iranian women take part in a demonstration in central London on 19 November 2022 (AFP)
British-Iranian women take part in a demonstration in central London on 19 November 2022 (AFP)
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Iran to hang dissidents for protesting

Iran's Chief Justice Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Eje'I said on Monday that the death sentences of protesters convicted of "war against God" or "spreading corruption on earth" would be carried out soon, Mehr news agency reported.

According to Iran's Islamic law, those accused of "moharebeh", meaning war against God, and "fesad filarz", meaning spreading corruption on earth, can face the death penalty.

The first known execution was carried out on Thursday.

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"Mohsen Shekari, a rioter who blocked Sattar Khan Street in Tehran on September 25 and wounded one of the security guards with a machete, was executed this morning," the judiciary's Mizan Online website said.

According to rights activists, at least 11 protesters have been sentenced to death since the beginning of the anti-government demonstrations in Iran in September. Over a dozen more face accusations punishable by the death penalty.

The ultra-conservative cleric who serves as head of Iran's judiciary warned that people advocating national strikes in the new phase of anti-government protests would also face prosecution.

According to Mehr, Eje'I ordered the provincial persecutors to arrest "those who threaten shop owners and truck drivers". 

Iranian officials have rejected the legitimacy of any strikes called during the protests, claiming that shop owners and drivers were forced to stop working because of the "threats" by the rioters. The authority says the anti-government protesters are rioters.

Lawyers plea to defend detained protesters 

A group of Iranian lawyers has raised concerns over the judicial process in which those arrested in the latest wave of anti-government protests have been tried.

The Etemad daily reported that the detained protesters had been systematically deprived of their right to have a lawyer of their choice during the process of prosecution and at the court during the trials.

'Some judges even ban these handpicked lawyers from entering the courts and defending [the protesters]'

- Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht, lawyer for Mahsa Amini

The lawyers the daily spoke with said that only a group of solicitors vetted by the country's conservative judicial system can defend the protesters. 

Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht, the lawyer who defended the family of Mahsa Amini, told the daily that less than 1,000 lawyers out of the 60,000 registered lawyers in Iran could defend protesters when their cases were being completed before the beginning of the trials.

"Some judges even ban these handpicked lawyers from entering the courts and defending [the protesters]," Nikbakht told the daily.

Another lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, said that some people contacted him to defend their family members accused of moharebeh. But later they had to withdraw their request because of pressure from the court and security forces.

According to rights groups, over 15,000 people have been arrested in Iran since the beginning of the latest wave of demonstrations began on 16 September.

Morality police presence increases in Qom

The number of morality police vans patrolling the streets of Iran's holy city of Qom has increased since mid-September, the reformist Ham Mihan daily reported on Monday.

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"During the past month, several women living in Qom told Ham Mihan that the activities of morality police cars in the streets of this city increased," the daily reported.

"Mina, 25, who was born and lived all her life in Qom, is one of the women recently arrested by the morality police in Alavi Park. First, the officers transferred her to a van, and then she was taken to a police station to sign a written promise," the daily added.

"There, she met many other women arrested for the same reason. They all stressed that the number of morality police cars had increased in Qom since the beginning of demonstrations in the country," the report continued.

Qom is a holy city in Iran where the powerful Islamic seminary of Qom is located. Most Iranian clerics ruling the country studied or taught in that seminary. 

The activities of Iran's morality police have been suspended in some major cities after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in the custody of Tehran's morality police.

National team coach to stay despite defeat

Iran's humiliating 6-2 defeat against England in the Qatar World Cup was the worst defeat the country's national team had experienced since 1950, but officials are set to extend the contract of Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese coach of the team.

Local media reported that Iran's sports officials favour continuing working with Queiroz because of his alleged political support for the government.

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The Mardom Salari daily reported that Iran's sports ministry and football federation wanted to extend Queiroz's contract until the end of the AFC Asian Cup in June 2023.

"It seems that the sports officials have enjoyed his remarks in response to foreign reporters, especially the American and British journalists," wrote the daily. 

"That is why they forgot about his weak results in the World Cup," Mardom Salari added. 

The coincidence of the World Cup with anti-establishment demonstrations in Iran put the national team under the media spotlight, and some journalists asked the team members political questions. 

In response to a Sky News reporter who asked Queiroz if he was comfortable representing a nation that suppresses women's rights, he answered: "Think about what happened in your country with immigration."

To another reporter, he complained about why journalists did not ask the coaches of England and USA national teams about the role their countries played in Afghanistan.

*Iranian press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

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