An Iranian military court has sentenced two men to death by hanging for killing three anti-government protesters in prison, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) [official website, in Persian] on Wednesday. Nine others were sentenced to prison terms, and one suspect was acquitted. The men were charged [JURIST report] with torturing and eventually killing Mohammad Kamrani, Amir Javadi-far and Mohsen Ruholamini while they were detained at Kahrizak jail south of Iran. The Iranian government was sharply criticized by both pro-democracy leaders and government supporters for the death of the protesters, who were incarcerated after last June's disputed presidential election [JURIST news archive]. Authorities initially claimed that the three men had died from meningitis, holding that the torture accusations were the propaganda of the opposition party. This viewpoint began to shift in August when government officials spoke out [JURIST report] against the abuse of protesters detained in Iranian prisons and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official website] ordered the closure of Kahrizak prison as a result. The defendants, whose trial began [JURIST report] in March, included of 11 policemen and one civilian. It is unclear whether the civilian was one of the men sentenced to death, as the presiding judge has prevented any trial information from being disclosed. The convicted men will have 20 days to appeal the military court's ruling.
Observers have accused the Iranian government of conducting the trial as a mere political move. In January, an Iranian parliamentary inquiry found [JURIST report] that Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi was responsible for the deaths. The report alleged that Mortazavi, the prosecutor responsible for overseeing the Kahrizak prison, ordered that the prisoners be transferred to Kahrizak, where they were tortured and beaten to death. The US government and EU issued a joint statement [JURIST report] in February condemning the human rights violations following the presidential election. In December, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] labeled [JURIST report] the human rights violations committed by the Iranian government following the election among the worst of the past 20 years.