Karate champion executed in Iran was given only 15 minutes to plead case

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was charged with killing a paramilitary force member but could not choose a lawyer

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was executed after a fast-track trial in Iran. AP
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Mohammad Mehdi Karami, an Iranian protester who was executed on January 7, was given less than 15 minutes to defend himself against the death penalty, sources who spoke to BBC Persian said.

Iran executed Karami, 22, a karate champion, alongside Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, after finding them guilty of killing a member of a paramilitary force in Karaj, west of Tehran, in November.

Iran's rulers are seeking to suppress months-long nationwide protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, days after she was arrested by morality police in early September on charges of wearing her hijab "inappropriately".

Defendants are entitled to legal representation in Iran, but the country’s judiciary does not allow protesters and dissidents to choose their own lawyers during trials deemed sensitive by the authorities.

Karami was arrested during protests in the city of Karaj for his involvement in the killing of a member of Iran’s paramilitary Basij force on November 3. Because his case was deemed sensitive by the judiciary, he was granted a court-appointed lawyer.

Karami’s father, Mashallah Karami, told Tehran-based Etemad newspaper that his son's public defender had not answered the family's calls in the week before his trial and that he had not been allowed to hire alternative legal representation.

Four people have been hanged so far after being convicted on charges related to popular unrest that erupted in September over the death of Amini. On Saturday, Iranian media said former Defence Ministry aide Alireza Akbari was executed for spying.

The executions triggered condemnation from Europe and the US, but Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has insisted that "identification, trial and punishment" of all those who authorities believe were involved in violence will continue.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 4:17 PM