'Don't tell mum I'm being executed' Iranian protester tells father in final call

Rights groups concerned as dozens of people face capital punishment following arrests of 14,000 protesters

The entrance to Evin prison in Tehran. Reuters
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The father of a protester detained during the brutal crackdown on nationwide protests in Iran has said his son called him from prison to tell him he has been sentenced to death.

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

His son, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, was arrested following the funeral of a fellow protester in Karaj on November 3, accused by judicial authorities of instigating “corruption of the land”.

He is one of the main suspects in the death of Ruhollah Ajmian, a member of the Basij paramilitary force, which was established to counter opposition to the regime.

The group is under sanction by the EU and US for human rights abuses.

Iran says more than 200 people have been killed in the protests, including 50 members of the security forces, since demonstrations erupted on September 16 following the death of Mahsa Amini.

Ms Amini, 22, was a Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody after being accused of violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Rights groups say that the toll is in fact more than 500 and concern is rising that hundreds, if not thousands of detainees could face the death penalty for involvement in the protests, which have also involved anti-government strikes in the education, oil and gas, and steel production sectors.

The UN says about 14,000 people have been detained since protests began, while Amnesty International says that those facing the death penalty have been given “show trials”.

“I fear every night that they will tell me my child has been executed. My son was crying and told me, Dad, I’ve been given the death penalty. But don’t tell mum,” Mr Karami said.

He added his son does not accept the accusations and that his sentence was issued solely on the basis of his “confession”, which was made under physical and mental pressure.

Mr Karami added that the person in charge of the case told him that the family's opposition to the death penalty means opposition to the “order of God and the Prophet”.

The 1500 Tasvir Twitter account, which is run by activists, had reported that “Mehdi”, as he is known, “was beaten so badly that he was unconscious, and the government forces thought he was dead and threw his ‘body’ around the Nazarabad court, but when they left, it was discovered that he was still alive”.

He also reportedly endured sexual harassment by government officials during his detention and said they threatened to rape him.

Updated: December 14, 2022, 12:20 PM