Top Sunni cleric says not right to give death penalty to Iranian protesters

Anti-government protests have shook Iran for over two months now, with some protesters even being handed the death penalty. A prominent Sunni cleric has hit back at the death sentence, saying it was wrong to charge protesters with capital offences.

Molavi Abdolhamid, who is a powerful dissenting Sunni voice in the Shi’ite-ruled Islamic Republic, said the hardline judiciary should not charge protesters with “moharebeh”, an Islamic term meaning warring against God, which carries the death penalty.

“A person who has protested with stones and sticks or just by shouting should not be accused of moharebeh. What the Koran calls moharebeh is when a group uses arms and engages (in fighting),” Molavi Abdolhamid said in a Friday prayers sermon, according to his website.

Social media videos suggest that fresh protests have broken out in Iran in regions like Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province where Molavi Abdolhamid spoke, Chabahar, Taftan and few more places.     

Iran Human Rights group posted videos showing minority ethnic Baluch women chanting “I will kill whoever killed my brother”. In response, the police can be shooting what it said was birdshot and teargas at demonstrators. Another unverified video showed injured protesters treated at a makeshift clinic in a mosque.

Javaid Rehman, a UN-appointed independent expert on Iran, said on Tuesday that handing out death penalties to suppress protests is a matter of concern. He said that at least 21 people have been sentence to death till now, including a woman who was indicted on “vague and broadly formulated criminal offences”.

United Nations puts the figure of those death till now in the protests at 300, with 14,000 arrested. Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody on September 16 after being arrested by the morality police for not wearing the hijab properly, sparked anger across the country.

(With inputs from agencies)

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