Amnesty: Executions in Iran Spiked Last Year

Washington, Feb. 28 - Iran publicly executed around four times as many people in 2011 as in 2010, a new Amnesty International report published Tuesday said.

“Casting a shadow over all those who fall foul of Iran’s unjust justice system is the mounting toll of people sentenced to death and executed,” the report said.

The regime uses public hangings to intimidate the public and make of example of those it regards as seditious. At least three juvenile offenders were among those hanged, which is illegal under international law, the report said.

While Amnesty did not cite specific figure of executions - Iranian authorities do not disclose such statistics - the development is one of many trends in the study that details a growing crackdown in dissent and human rights abuses within the Islamic Republic. There has been a wave of arrests in the run-up to parliamentary elections due to take place on March 2.

These arrests, Amnesty said, have targeted lawyers, students, journalists, political activists and their relatives, as  well as religious and ethnic minorities, film-makers and people with international connections, particularly to media.

"In Iran today you put yourself at risk if you do anything that might fall outside the increasingly narrow confines of what the authorities deem socially or politically acceptable," Ann Harrison, interim deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, was quoted as saying in major news outlets.

The report also slammed Iran for the regime’s attempts to publicly identify with the wave of revolutions sweeping the Middle East that have seen mass street protests overthrow authoritarian governments in the region. It said that its internal repression countered the values of the “Arab Spring.”

"This dreadful record really highlights the hypocrisy of the Iranian government's attempts to show solidarity with protesters in Egypt, Bahrain and other countries in the region," Amnesty said.

Amnesty’s report also noted that the crackdown has also targeted electronic and web media. A new “cyber police” force recently ordered internet cafes to install close-circuited television and keep track of their customers browsing habits.

The March election, dominated by conservative and establishment candidates, is likely to trumpet the supposed popularity of the clerical establishment, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, as the country faces off with the West over its suspected nuclear weapons program.

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