James Cleverly summons Iran's top diplomat over 'abhorrent executions'

Tense meeting came amid suggestions UK is on brink of designating IRGC a terrorist group

A demonstration in London in support of protesters in Iran calling for an end to the regime. Getty
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Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has summoned Iran’s top diplomat to condemn his country’s “abhorrent executions” at the weekend.

Mr Cleverly called on Tehran to cease its “brutal repression” of protesters who have for months taken to the streets of cities and towns across Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini. She fell into a coma and died in September following her arrest by Iran's morality police for not wearing her hijab correctly.

Mohammad Mahdi Karami and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini were executed by the Iranian authorities at the weekend, prompting a further wave of international condemnation.

The two men were hanged after their appeals were quashed. They claimed they had been tortured into making false confessions that they had killed a member of the security forces during anti-government protests last year.

Mehdi Hosseini Matin, Iran’s most senior diplomat in the UK, was summoned by the Foreign Secretary on Monday after the latest killings.

“Today I have summoned the Iranian Chargé d’Affaires to condemn in the strongest possible terms the abhorrent executions we witnessed over the weekend,” Mr Cleverly said.

“The Iranian regime must end its campaign of brutal repression and start listening to the concerns of its people.”

Stephen Hickey, director for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign Office, held the meeting with Mr Matin and underlined the UK’s opposition to the death penalty.

The UN said the latest executions followed “unfair trials based on forced confessions”.

The men's deaths bring the number of protesters known to have been executed over the unrest to four.

The executions have sparked global outrage and prompted western governments to impose new sanctions against Tehran.

The UK has imposed more than 40 human rights sanctions including on leading political, judicial and security officials in Iran, for their role in serious human rights violations.

Last week it was reported that Rishi Sunak's government was planning to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organisation.

Several European governments also summoned Iranian representatives on Monday.

“The Iranian charge d'affaires will be summoned today to the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs to convey our firmest condemnation of these executions and the current repression in Iran,” France’s foreign ministry said.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Iran’s ambassador to Berlin had been summoned to her ministry “to make unmistakably clear that the brutal repression, the oppression and the terrorising of its own population as well as the most recent two executions will not remain without consequence”.

She said it was “key” that the EU’s member states remain united and not “close our eyes” to human rights violations in other nations.

“We must not be resigned but should make clear again and again that we stand by the people who want nothing but to live in freedom and security,” said Ms Baerbock.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Saturday's executions “appalling” and urged Iran to stop carrying out the death penalty “and to release those arrested on false grounds”.

Norway's foreign ministry adopted a similar line by summoning Iran's ambassador for talks.

Anniken Huitfeldt, Norway’s Foreign Minister, took to Twitter to say the government “strongly condemns” the latest executions.

“We call on Iran to end the repression of human rights. Norway urges Iran to respond to protests with meaningful reform and to immediately halt executions”, she said.

Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands announced similar moves.

The hangings in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, followed the executions of two other men — Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard — in December. They were convicted of separate attacks on security forces.

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Updated: January 09, 2023, 4:02 PM