On Sunday, April 4, Iranian authorities executed three death-row prisoners at Urmia Central Prison in the northwestern Iranian province of West Azarbaijan, reported the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). A day earlier, prison guards had transferred seven inmates to solitary confinement, preparing them for the execution.
As a regular procedure, authorities had called their families to visit their loved ones for the last time on the same day. However, these notices prompted families’ anger, pushing them to hold a rally in front of the prison.
Three of the executed prisoners were held in Ward 6, including Mohammad Karim Mahmoudi from the Oshnavieh district, Ahad Habib-Vand and Sadegh Mohi from Urmia.
According to the human rights website No to Prison – No to Execution, the government hanged the three inmates from Ward 6 on drug-related charges. Fearing public backlash, authorities took other prisoners from solitary confinement to ordinary wards. Notably, the government frequently uses mock executions as a means to break inmates’ spirits.
“The authorities implement death penalties while drug cartels controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and high-ranking officials are the greatest importer in Iran. Furthermore, government officials intentionally import the drug into prisons and penitentiaries and distribute it among inmates. However, they mercilessly hang poor people on drug-related charges,” dissidents say.
Meanwhile, despite the government’s harsh punishments, relevant observers admit that not only did the death penalty for drug-related charges not decrease this social dilemma, but it had also contributed to reverse results. “For long years, our country has relied on death sentences and other heavy punishments to counter drug-related crimes,” said Iranian journalist Ehsan Bodaghi.
“Currently, many have grasped that in proper conditions for such crimes, not only the intensification of heavy punishments like the increase in the execution’s number remained fruitless, but the number of such offenders is on the rise,” he added.
According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, authorities in Iran have executed at least 84 inmates in the first three months of 2021. Rights activists had already declared that over 72 percent of executions are implemented in secret, emphasizing the actual number of executions is far higher.
The Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) had time and again called on the international community to pressure Iranian authorities to stop the executions. Iranian dissidents also asserted that any negotiation with the Iranian government should be conditioned to preserving the people’s basic human rights and ensuring their fundamental freedoms.
They had issued warnings that the ayatollahs would exploit negotiations for violating Iranian citizens’ essential rights if U.S. and European negotiators do not prioritize respecting Iranians’ human rights during the upcoming talks.