Iran has executed two men accused of blasphemy as the number of death sentences handed down by the ruling regime continues to mount.
The series of executions, including members of ethnic minorities Irancomes after months of protests over the death of the 22-year-old in September Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the country’s vice squad.
At least 203 prisoners have been executed in the country so far in 2023, according to the nonprofit campaign group Iran Human Rights.
The country has one of the highest execution rates in the world.
The two men – Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare – have been accused of involvement in a channel on the messaging app Telegram, which authorities claimed offended Islam Prophet Mohammed and promoted atheism.
They were also accused of burning the Koran or sharing a picture of the burning of the holy book of Islam on the Telegram channel.
Iranian officials confirmed the men were hanged and died in Arak prison in the center Iran.
Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Iran – but executions in such cases are typically rare in the country.
It was not immediately clear when Iran carried out its last execution for blasphemy.
Historian Hashem Aghajari was sentenced to death in Iran for blasphemy in 2002, but the country’s Supreme Court later changed the sentence to “insulting religious values” and imposed a three-year prison sentence.
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‘Medieval’ executions are ‘intolerable’
The execution of the two men has been criticized by the group Iran Human Rights, which said they reveal the “medieval nature” of Iran’s theocracy.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, who heads the Oslo-based group, said in a statement: “The response from the international community must show that executions for expression of opinion are intolerable.
“The international community’s refusal to react decisively is a green light for the Iranian government and all its like-minded people around the world.”
According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the men were arrested in May 2020 and accused of involvement in a Telegram news app channel called Critique of Superstition and Religion.
Both men spent months in solitary confinement and were unable to contact their families, the commission said.
In 2022, Iran executed at least 582 people, up from 333 people in 2021, Iran Human Rights added.
Amnesty International’s latest report on executions ranks Iran as the second largest executioner in the world, behind only China, where thousands are executed each year.