Iran Executes Four Men Falsely Accused of Mossad Ties

Latest Developments

Iran on January 29 hanged four prisoners falsely accused of planning to sabotage a Defense Ministry factory and having links with Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. Iranian state media reported that the judiciary charged the four men with “collusion with the Zionist regime” and “disrupting national security by establishing and managing a terrorist group” to target the factory, which produces missiles and other defense equipment. State media further accused the men of being members of the Kurdish separatist Komala group.

Iranian authorities arrested Mohsen Mazloum, Mohammad Faramarzi, Vafa Azarbar, and Pejman Fatehi in West Azerbaijan province in July 2022. According to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, the Tehran Revolutionary Court — presided over by Judge Iman Afshari — forced the men to use a court-appointed lawyer and denied them basic due process rights. Iran’s Supreme Court dismissed the men’s retrial request, and the regime broadcast their forced confessions on state media. Protesting the executions, businesses across several Kurdish-majority cities in Iran’s western provinces went on a general strike.

Expert Analysis

“The regime in Iran continues to use sham trials and the death penalty against political prisoners to quash discontent and civic engagement. The judge presiding over this case, Iman Afshari, has a record of human rights violations related to unfair trials of political prisoners and is sanctioned by Canada and the United Kingdom. The United States ought to sanction Afshari as well.” — Janatan Sayeh, FDD Research Analyst

“Iran continues to execute innocent people because it knows that it will face no meaningful consequences. Since President Biden took office, the United States has failed to impose significant penalties on Iran for its regional aggression, nuclear escalation, and human rights abuses, hoping against hope that goodwill in Washington would beget goodwill in Tehran. Instead, the Islamic Republic has continued to consolidate power at the expense of the Iranian people.” — Tzvi Kahn, FDD Research Fellow and Senior Editor

Human Rights Violations Record

Judge Iman Afshari has an extensive track record of issuing harsh sentences that target political activists, women, as well as ethnic and religious minorities. In 2024 alone, Afshari has sentenced at least 17 prisoners to draconian prison sentences, including women’s rights activists Mahnaz Tarah and Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi. Most notably, Afshari issued prison sentences totaling 95 years to 11 political prisoners in early January. In 2023, Afshari sentenced Iranian Arab activist Habib Chaab to death after Iranian intelligence services kidnapped him in Turkey. According to the non-profit Human Rights Activists News Agency, Afshari has presided over at least 193 cases in 2023 where he has issued “verdicts that infringe upon the rights of the defendants.” The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reported in 2022 that Afshari had sentenced two Baha’i women to 10 years in prison amid ongoing civil unrest in Iran.

UN and Rights Groups Sound Alarm

The latest deaths come amid a surge of executions in Iran. In 2024 to date, Tehran has already executed 69 people, according to the Oslo-based nonprofit Iran Human Rights (IHR). In 2023, the clerical regime executed at least 834 people, said United Nations experts on January 23. By contrast, Tehran executed 582 people in 2022 and 331 in 2021, IHR said. The figures do not include the hundreds of protestors killed by Iranian security forces since nationwide demonstrations began in September 2022. Iran has consistently ranked only behind China — which does not disclose how many people it executes — in the number of total executions it conducts each year.

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