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Iran executes karate champion and volunteer children's coach amid crackdown on protests

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On Saturday, Iran hanged two youths, one a karate champion and the other a volunteer children’s trainer. This brings to four the total number of people known to have been executed in connection with the protests that have swept the country since September.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini were hanged on Saturday morning, state news agency Fars News reported. The pair, who allegedly took part in anti-regime protests last year, were convicted of the murder of Seyed Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the country’s Basij paramilitary force, in Karaj on Nov. 3, according to the Iranian judicial news agency Mizan.

Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, a lawyer defending Karami, posted on Twitter on Saturday saying that Karami was not given final rights to speak to his family before his execution. The lawyer added that Karami started a hunger strike on Wednesday as a form of protest against the authorities for not allowing Aghasi to represent him.

Another 41 protesters have received death sentences in recent months, according to statements by Iranian officials and in Iranian media reviewed by CNN and 1500Tasvir, but the number could be much higher.

Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, who allegedly took part in anti-regime protests last year, was reportedly hanged on Saturday morning.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was not given final rights to speak with his family before his execution, according to a lawyer who defended him.

Karami, 21, was an Iranian-Kurdish karate champion who sported an Olympic rings tattoo on the inside of his upper arm. His cousin told CNN that Karami was a brave and smart boy and started karate at age 11. He joined the Iranian youth team and later won the national championship.

Last month, Karami’s parents posted a video on social media begging the state to spare her life. Her father said, “My son is among Iran’s karate champions and has several national titles and was the fourth ranked member in the Iranian national team… I ask you to lift the execution order.”

Karami was convicted on Dec. 5, less than a week after his trial began in Tehran for the alleged murder of the paramilitary man. Amnesty described the trial as “bearing no resemblance to a meaningful court case”. His family alleges he was tortured in prison and refused access to a lawyer.

Amnesty International published a quote from Karami’s father that said: “I go to court and prison every morning and then wander aimlessly through the streets. This morning I went to the prison, but the assistant prosecutor stationed at the prison was not there. They told me that I should stop going there if my case was related to the protests. They don’t give you any answers.

“Every night I am afraid that they will give me the news of my son’s execution,” said his father. “I have lost hope… they have sentenced my son to death and could carry out his execution at any moment.”

Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, 20, was remembered for volunteering with children by a German MP who pleaded his case.

“The story of #SeyedMohammadHosseini is so sad. He lost his parents. He visited his tombs every Thursday. He trains kids for free,” wrote Ye-One Rhie on Twitter.

Hosseini was arrested on his way to visit his parents’ graves, according to Ye-One Rhie. His brother was also taken and has not heard from him, said the parliamentarian.

According to Amnesty, Hosseini was sentenced at the same hearing as Karami and two other men who were also sentenced to death, Hamid Ghare-Hasalou and Hossein Mohammadi.

Amnesty says the convictions were based on forced confessions.

“Before the start of the group trial, state media broadcast the forced “confessions” of the defendants and described them as “murderers”, in violation of their rights to the presumption of innocence and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” , Amnesty wrote.

Meanwhile, the political editor of the independent Iranian newspaper Etemad Online, Mehdi Beyk, was detained on Thursday, according to a tweet from the publication. The arrest comes amid a crackdown by Iranian authorities following protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last year after she was detained by state morality police for allegedly not wearing the hijab properly. Since then, protests have coalesced around a series of grievances against the authoritarian regime.

Mehdi Beyk is seen in a photo posted by his wife, Zahra Beyk, after his arrest.

Beyk was detained by Iranian Information Ministry officials, his wife, Zahra Beyk, said on Friday.

He was arrested after “interviewing the families of several of those arrested in the ongoing demonstrations,” according to pro-reform activist IranWire.

The “journalist’s cell phone, laptop and belongings were confiscated,” his wife tweeted. It is unclear at this point why Beyk was arrested.

Iranian authorities have already arrested some individuals for their criticism of the government’s response to the demonstrations.

One of Iran’s best-known actresses, Taraneh Alidoosti, was released on bail on Wednesday, the state-aligned ISNA said, after she was arrested after criticizing the execution of a protester.

Known as a feminist activist, Alidoosti last month posted a photo of herself on Instagram without the Islamic hijab and holding a sign reading “Women, Life, Freedom” to show support for the protest movement.

Alidoosti was not formally charged, but was initially arrested for “lack of evidence for her allegations” in relation to her protest against the hanging of Mohsen Shekari last month, in the first known execution linked to the protests.