Shahid Alikhani Square is an indescribable part of the historic Iranian city of Isfahan. Its only claim to prominence is the grand entrance to one of the city’s main underground stations.
But now it has become a place of pilgrimage for supporters of famous Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani who fear the youngster could be executed in the square, where an execution platform has been set up, a source said. witness close to Nasr-Azadani in Iran told CNN.
Terrified Iranian families believe that while the Western world is preoccupied with Christmas celebrations, a wave of executions in the country is imminent following recent protests that have swept the country following the death in September of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by Iran’s notorious morality. police for being accused of wearing her hijab improperly.
Working with activist group 1500Tasvir, CNN has verified documents, videos, testimonies and statements inside the country that suggest at least 43 people, including Nasr-Azadani, may face execution imminent.
Authorities have already executed at least two people in connection with protests in Iran last month, one of whom was publicly hanged.
Witness testimonies and official documents, reviewed by CNN and 1500Tasvir, provide evidence that suggests a rushed judicial process in Iran; charges that could carry the death penalty, often pronounced in a single sitting.
Nasr-Azadani is accused of participating in the murder of three security officers, including two volunteer members of the Basij militia, during protests in Isfahan on November 16, Iranian state media IRNA reported last week.
According to state media, the city’s chief judge, Asadullah Jafari, said Nasr-Azadani had been charged with Baghi – or rioting against the authorities. According to the Iranian penal code, the punishment is punishable by death.
Since then, a witness to his arrest said he hoped Nasr-Azadani would be released, but nevertheless visited Shahid Alikhani Square daily to see if the authorities would show up with the footballer and execute him on the spot. ‘scaffold. “From the day he was arrested, the authorities told us that he would be released by the end of the week,” the witness told CNN.
Then the information dried up. Weeks later, the witness, who is close to Nasr-Azadani, claims authorities told them the 26-year-old could be hanged in Shahid Alikhani Square.
“The thought that they could execute him any day is really very difficult for us…and the daily news that we hear all the time is disturbing.”
Nasr-Azadani’s family was initially unaware of the reason for his arrest, the witness told CNN, and officials did not share information about his condition. His relatives were also warned to “keep quiet” about his case if they wanted to see him released sooner, the witness told CNN.
Last week, the court said it had obtained “video and sufficient documentation to prove that he [Nasr-Azadani] is part of an armed group” and that the footballer had confessed to his crimes, state media IRNA reported.
Previous CNN investigations have revealed that prisoners have been subjected to torture and sexual assault. Human rights groups say torture-tainted “confessions” have been used against defendants in sham trials.
Iranian officials nonetheless defended the trials. In recent days, an Iranian MP said he believed those involved in the current unrest should be executed within 5-10 days of their arrest. CNN has received no official response from Iranian officials to its request for comment.
Another man, Majid Kazemi, has also been charged with involvement in the murder of three members of the security forces in Isfahan, the document obtained by CNN and 1500Tasvir shows. Kazemi told others that he was coerced into confessing to his involvement in criminal acts during his interrogation.
“He didn’t confess to doing any of the things he was accused of, so they beat him badly,” a source close to Kazemi told CNN.
A prisoner released from the facility where Majid is being held told the source that his arm, leg and nose were broken.
Majid’s hearing is expected to take place over the holiday season, the source told CNN.
“It will coincide with a time when the international community observes these holy days, and the regime of the Islamic Republic will benefit from being removed from the watchful eyes of the world.
“I’m really afraid they’ll execute Majid.”
In a recording from inside a Tehran prison, inmate Sahand Noor Mahammadzade recounts how he was forced to confess.
“The judge who was there told me to say that I don’t protest (objection) and gave me three pages which I signed, when they didn’t even allow me to read any of them.
“The second time they took me in for questioning, my charges had completely changed. This second accusation against me contained the term “Moharab”.
“They told me to go into the prosecutor’s office and as he walked in he said, ‘It’s evident in his face. Run this one!”
In a hastily photographed document from inside the Isfahan Regional Court obtained and verified by 1500Tasvir and CNN, it is revealed that at least 10 people in Isfahan have also been accused of Moharabe (a war against God), spreading corruption on Earth and other charges – all of which carry the death penalty.
The charge, introduced after the 1979 revolution, is regularly imposed on people accused of committing acts against the government.
Several other testimonies and official documents sent by families, and authenticated jointly by CNN and 1500Tasvir, paint a picture that shows how the Iranian regime is rushing the judicial process.
Families and activists say only court-appointed lawyers are allowed to represent defendants who are also denied the right to appeal.
And if the charge is brought, Iran’s penal code says they could be sentenced to death in one sitting – although they won’t be executed immediately and most sentences are subject to appeal.
Soheil Jahangiri is one of the Iranians to receive such a sentence. Family members told CNN they had not heard from him in over a month. They say the authorities have not allowed Jahangiri to have an independent lawyer.
“The judicial authorities alluded to two counts: Baghi and Moharabe. Soheil could face either of these death penalty charges,” a family member said.
“We are very afraid that with the start of the Christmas holidays and less political pressure on the government, the executions will resume, and I believe that Soheil’s life and that of many political prisoners are in danger.
“We don’t want to see our children executed while the media is silent,” they added.
CNN has verified that dozens more — including some teenagers — face similar charges in connection with the protests and face execution.
At the Khuzestan Regional Court, west of Isfahan, CNN confirmed – in conjunction with 1500Tasvir – through court documents that 23 people have been charged with crimes that carry the death penalty.
In Karaj, near Tehran, CNN and 1500Tasvir confirmed that five more Iranians were at risk of execution. Among them is 21-year-old Iranian-Kurdish karate champion Mohammad Mehdi Karami, whose parents also went public with their plea.
“Please, please remove the execution order from my son’s case,” his father said in a video shared on social media.
In messages shared with CNN, his family claim that Karami was not only sentenced to death, he was tortured in prison.
In another post shared with CNN, they said that despite his alleged mistreatment, Karami was in good spirits but “physically damaged” after being tortured.
For those awaiting execution, the wait behind bars can be unbearable. Just this week, 27-year-old Iranian-Kurdish rapper Saman Yasin attempted suicide while in custody.
In her latest music video, Yasin rapped about inequality and oppression in Iran, singing “they slammed my throat shut. They banned beauty. They knocked me down like an animal. I don’t settle for silence.
Just two days ago, Yasin attempted to take his own life, after weeks of enduring harsh prison conditions in northern Iran, prison sources told CNN.
CNN has verified that at least 43 inmates are at risk of execution. Statements from Iranian officials and Iranian media reviewed by CNN and 1500Tasvir mention the names of those charged and show that the real number may be as high as 100. However, many families were too scared to speak to us directly. confirm the names mentioned in the media.
As the year approaches its bitter end, for many Iranians their desperate pleas persist.
In a video made public and shared with CNN, the mother of brothers Farzad and Farhad Tahazade, 23 and 24, sent this message to the world:
“Please hear the cries for help from my sons. My sons are young and they have children waiting for their release. Please save them. For the love of God, save my sons.
In Iran, a woman puts herself in great danger by publicly denouncing the authorities on behalf of her children. But it’s a risk that many parents feel they have no choice but to take.