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UN rights chief: Iran seeks ‘chilling effect’ with execution of protester

Volker Türk says Tehran clearly trying to frighten other demonstrators, calls on Islamic Republic to end executions and free those arrested

A protestor with red tears painted on her face during a rally in support of the demonstrations in Iran, in Toulouse, south-western France, on December 3, 2022. (Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
A protestor with red tears painted on her face during a rally in support of the demonstrations in Iran, in Toulouse, south-western France, on December 3, 2022. (Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

BERLIN — The UN’s top human rights official on Friday said Iran’s first execution of a prisoner convicted for a crime allegedly committed during the country’s ongoing nationwide protests is “very troubling” and an attempt by Tehran to stifle further anti-government demonstrations.

The Iranian government’s decision to carry out the death penalty was “clearly designed to send a chilling effect to the rest of the protesters,” Volker Türk told reporters at a news conference in Geneva.

“We will follow up with the authorities as well about this,” he said.

“I can only … call on the authorities to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty, to release the ones who were arrested in connection with the protests and to work towards the abolition of the death penalty,” he added.

The execution of Mohsen Shekari was widely condemned abroad and comes as other detainees also face the possibility of the death penalty for their involvement in the protests, which began in mid-September.

Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday praised the protesters in Iran, and called on authorities in Tehran to end what he called their “inhumane” crackdown against their own population.

Steinmeier, who as Germany’s head of state holds a largely ceremonial role, cited reports that more than 500 people, including children, have been killed by government forces in recent months.

Mohsen Shekari (via Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Speaking after a 90-minute meeting Friday with Iranians living in Germany, Steinmeier accused Iran’s government of bringing “fear and terror” on its people and paid respect to the protesters in Iran.

“I admire your bravery,” he said. “We see your suffering. We see the crimes being done to you.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has also slammed Iran’s first execution linked to the anti-government protests, saying the death penalty was being used “as an instrument of terror.”

Baerbock said late Thursday at a news conference in Dublin that the European Union would react with further “hard measures” against Iran.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Friday that the Iranian ambassador in Berlin was summoned for talks following the execution of Shekari.

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