Iran sentences another teenager to death as tensions grow with France

Arshia Takdestan, 18, was convicted of corruption on earth and 'enmity against God'

A vigil honouring Iranians allegedly killed by their government, at a rally in the US Capitol in Washington, DC. AP
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Another teenager has been sentenced to death in Iran as Tehran authorities show no sign of giving in to international pressure and halting the execution of anti-regime demonstrators.

Arshia Takdestan, 18, received the death sentence after being convicted of “moharebeh” and “corruption on earth”, the judiciary's Mizan news agency said on Thursday.

It said the teenager was a leader of “riots” — referring to months-long popular protests — in the city of Nowhshahr.

Moharebeh — which translates as enmity against God — and corruption on earth are vague charges commonly levelled against those who speak or act against the regime, which has been shaken by countrywide protests calling for an end to the government's decade-long reign.

Two people have already been executed for their participation in the protests, and protesters are often accused of killing members of the security forces. Since the protests began, more than 500 people are thought to have lost their lives, and more than 18,000 have reportedly been sent to prison and secret detention centres.

On Wednesday another two teenagers were sentenced to death, also 18. If carried out, they will be the youngest protesters so far to be executed.

Iran, one of the world's biggest executioners, is still known to execute children and those convicted of a crime carried out as minors. In December, a 22-year-old man convicted of a murder that he was accused of committing at the age of 16 was hanged, according to Iran Human Rights.

The group says at least 100 people are at risk of death sentence charges. Some protesters have been granted retrials but there is no guarantee of acquittal, with cases handled by hardline revolutionary courts.

In one case, a man has been sentenced to death for an interview with an Israeli television channel — the judiciary then accused him of spying for its arch foe.

'No lessons' to learn from Iran

Meanwhile, Iran and France have clashed over the publication of cartoons insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Tehran summoned the French ambassador on Wednesday after the images were published in a special edition by the magazine, marking the eighth anniversary of an attack on its offices in which 12 people were killed in 2015.

The cartoons were slammed by Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian as “insulting and indecent,” and he said the publication “has definitely chosen the wrong path.”

In response, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Paris has no lessons to learn from Tehran over press freedom and human rights.

“Let's remember that in France press freedom exists contrary to what's happening in Iran,” she said on Thursday, also hitting out at Tehran's lack of an independent judiciary.

On Thursday, Tehran announced it had closed a French institute in the capital in response to the cartoons, with the foreign ministry claiming the issue was linked to Israel. It has also tried to blame Israel for the protests.

It is not the first time France and Iran have been at loggerheads.

President Emmanuel Macron sparked anger in the Muslim world in 2020 following the beheading of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty.

Mr Paty was killed after showing images depicting the Prophet Mohammed during a discussion on free speech and the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

The French President's ensuing comments on Islam and defence of the cartoons led to protests in several countries and a call to boycott French products.

Mr Khamenei hit out at Mr Macron while Iranian newspapers published cartoons of him depicted as the devil.

France has also called on Iran to release several of its citizens held in Iran on trumped-up charges.

Updated: January 05, 2023, 4:13 PM