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Iran executes karate champion and volunteer children’s trainer

(CNN) — Iran hanged two young men this Saturday, a karate champion and a volunteer children’s trainer. This brings to four the total number of people known to have been executed in connection with the protests that have swept the country since September.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini were hanged early Saturday morning, state-affiliated Fars News reported. Both men, who allegedly took part in anti-regime protests last year, were convicted of killing Seyed Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the country’s Basij paramilitary force, in Karaj on November 3, according to Iran’s Mizan judicial news agency.

Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, a lawyer defending Karami, posted on Twitter on Saturday that Karami was not given a last word to speak to his family before his execution. The lawyer added that Karami had gone on a dry food hunger strike on Wednesday, as a form of protest against officials for not allowing Aghasi to represent him.

Up to 41 more protesters have received death sentences in recent months, according to statements by both Iranian officials and Iranian media reviewed by CNN and 1500Tasvir, but the number of those sentenced could be much higher.

Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, who allegedly took part in anti-regime protests last year, was hanged on Saturday morning. Mizan News

Mohammad Mehdi Karami did not get a last word to speak to his family before his execution, according to a lawyer who advocated for him. Mizan News

Tributes to the two executed

Karami, 21, was an Iranian-Kurdish karate champion, who sported a tattoo of the Olympic rings on the inside of his arm. His cousin told CNN that Karami was a brave and intelligent boy and that he started practicing karate at the age of 11. He then joined the Iranian youth national team and won in the national championships.

Last month, Karami’s parents posted a video on social media pleading with the state to spare her life. Her father said, “My son is among Iran’s karate champions and has several national titles and was the fourth ranked member of Iran’s national team…I beg you to lift the execution order.”

Karami was sentenced on December 5, less than a week after his trial began in Tehran for the alleged paramilitary killing. Amnesty said the trial had been “nothing close to significant legal proceedings”. His family claims that he was tortured in prison and denied access to a lawyer.

Amnesty International published a quote from Karami’s father saying: “I go to court and prison every morning and then wander aimlessly through the streets. This morning I went to the prison, but the deputy prison prosecutor was not there. They told me that he should stop going there if my case was related to the protests. They don’t give you any answers.”

“Every night I am afraid that they will give me the news of my son’s execution,” his father said. “I have lost hope… my son has been sentenced to death and could be executed at any time,” he added.

For his part, Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, 20, was remembered by a German parliamentarian who pleaded his case due to his work as a volunteer with children.

“The story of #SeyedMohammadHosseini is very sad. He lost both of his parents. He visited his graves every Thursday. Train kids for free,” Ye-One Rhie wrote on Twitter.

Hosseini was arrested on his way to visit his parents’ graves, according to Ye-One Rhie. His brother was also kidnapped and nothing is known about him, said the parliamentarian.

According to Amnesty, Hosseini was sentenced at the same hearing as Karami and two other men who were also sentenced to death, Hamid Ghare-Hasalou and Hossein Mohammadi.

Iranian-Kurdish karate champion Mohammad Mehdi Karami faces execution.  His parents publicly called for the order to be lifted.

Iranian-Kurdish karate champion Mohammad Mehdi Karami faces execution. His parents publicly called for the order to be lifted.

Amnesty says the convictions were based on coerced confessions.

“Before the group trial began, state media broadcast the coerced “confessions” of the defendants and describing them as ‘murderers’, in violation of their right to be presumed innocent and not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane treatment. and degrading,” Amnesty wrote.

A journalist arrested

Meanwhile, the politics editor of the independent Iranian newspaper Etemad Online, Mehdi Beyk, was detained on Thursday, according to a tweet from the publication. The arrest came amid a crackdown by Iranian authorities on protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last year, after she was detained by morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab. correctly. Since then, the protests have spread around a series of criticisms of the authoritarian regime.

Beyk was detained by officials from Iran’s Information Ministry, his wife, Zahra Beyk, said Friday.

He was arrested after “interviewing the families of several of those arrested in the ongoing demonstrations,” according to the pro-reform activist outlet IranWire.

The journalist’s “mobile phone, laptop and belongings were confiscated,” his wife tweeted. So far it is not clear why Beyk was arrested.

Iranian officials had already arrested some people for their criticism of the government’s response to the protests.

One of Iran’s best-known actresses, Taraneh Alidoosti, was released on bail on Wednesday, state-aligned ISNA said, after she was arrested for criticizing the execution of a protester.

Known as a feminist activist, Alidoosti last month posted a photo of herself on Instagram without the Islamic hijab and holding a banner that read “Women, Life, Freedom” to show her support for the protest movement.

Alidoosti was not formally charged, but was initially arrested for “lack of evidence in her claims” in connection with her protest against the hanging of Mohsen Shekari last month, the first known execution linked to the protests.

Investigation: Iran accesses social media accounts of detainees 4:23

CNN’s Teele Rebane, Angus Watson and Mostafa Salem contributed to this reporting.

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