Human rights groups are expressing outrage over what they called a shocking "surge" in executions in Iran following the weekend hangings of some 20 inmates.
Iranian authorities carried out mass executions over the weekend, hanging 20 inmates including several so-called "rebels" who stood accused of various crimes.
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Iran has executed more than 500 people this year, according to the human rights group Amnesty International, which is leading a campaign to save the lives of two Iranian inmates slated for execution.
Human rights activists said that the mass executions are proof that Iran is not serious about reforming its extremist ways.
"This surge in executions shows that behind words and promises, the Iranian authorities continue to rely on state-sponsored killing, sparking fears that Zaniar Moradi and Loghman Moradi, two Kurdish minority prisoners on death row, could be next," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programs, said in a statement on Monday.
"These and all other executions must be halted immediately," said Sahraoui. "While the Iranian authorities have a responsibility to bring those suspected of criminal offences to justice, the death penalty should never be used, as it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment."
Iran is known for quickly condemning and executing many types of lawbreakers, including drug runners, thieves, and other petty criminals.
One of the men hanged over the weekend was sentenced to death after "a five-minute trial in March 2010," according to Amnesty. At least eight others had been convicted of drug-related crimes.
The regime’s commitment to death by hanging drew international headlines earlier this month when Iranian authorities vowed to re-hang a man who survived his first trip to the gallows.
The man reportedly spent 12 minutes in a noose that had been suspended from a crane. Executions in Iran often draw a large crowd and are advertised beforehand by officials.
Iran is also one of the world’s leaders in the execution of children.
While the number of executions in Iran dipped in 2012, they rose sharply in 2013, according to Amnesty.
"The Iranian authorities have officially acknowledged 304 executions so far in 2013, but reliable sources have reported at least 234 additional unacknowledged executions during the year," Amnesy revealed on Tuesday.
"Iran’s new government has been cautiously lauded on the world stage for limited signs of progress, including releasing some prisoners of conscience. But the renewed dependence on the death penalty gives a startling example of one area where the Iranian authorities are clearly stubborn," according to Sahraoui.
Amnesty is now calling on Iran to halt the planned execution of two Kurdish men who were sentenced to death in 2010 following what observers labeled a sham trial.
Both Zaniar and Loghman Moradi claim that they were tortured by Iranian officials and forced to offer a false confession for murder.
"They were sentenced to death in December 2010 after being convicted of ‘enmity against God’ (moharebeh) and ‘corruption on earth’ for the murder," according to Amnesty.
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has also condemned executions and political oppression in Iran.