Iran has issued the first death sentence over protests that have rocked the country for almost two months, having previously voted overwhelmingly in favor of capital punishment in response to the social unrest sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court issued the sentence to a protester who is alleged to have set fire to a government building, after convicting the unnamed person on charges of “disturbing public order and peace, community, and colluding to commit a crime against national security, war and corruption on Earth, war through arson, and intentional destruction”.
Five others who took part in the protests received sentences of between five and 10 years in prison, state media reported.
Iran is believed to be second only to China in terms of how many people it executes per year, and concerns have been raised that this initial verdict will open the floodgates to a wave of executions.
Much will likely depend on the response to the sentence, although tempers run so high among protesters that observers believe the anti-regime protests which started in September will probably escalate in response. Iran is gripped by the greatest demonstration of dissent in a generation, sparked by outrage over the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman who had been detained by the morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly.
It is estimated that 326 people have been killed so far in 57 days of demonstrations, while thousands have been detained.
The movement appears to be growing despite desperate attempts by authorities to quell the discontent. A number of Iranian celebrities and athletes have publicly supported the anti-government protests in recent weeks.
The European Union meanwhile imposed sanctions against 29 people and three Iranian organizations in response to the crackdown by authorities, with French President Emmanuel Macron describing the events unfolding in the country as a “revolution”.
“Something unprecedented is happening,” Macron said. “The grandchildren of the revolution are carrying out a revolution and are devouring it.”