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PARIS: Executions in Iran have more than doubled in the first half of 2022, an NGO said Friday, warning that the surge in hangings was aimed at spreading fear at a time of protests.

From January 1 to June 30, 251 people were hanged in Iran compared with 117 in the first half of last year, Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) said in a report.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had expressed concern last month over the rise in executions, with Iran again executing drug offenders in high numbers and many people from ethnic minorities.

Iran has over the last months seen nationwide protests over economic grievances such as the rise in cost of basic staples including bread.

“There is no doubt that spreading fear to counteract the growing popular anti-regime protests is the main goal of these executions,” IHR founder Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam told AFP.

“Only stronger international reactions and domestic campaigns against the executions can raise the political cost of these executions for the authorities and stop the increasing trend,” he said.

He noted that 137 of the executions had taken place since the new wave of protests started on May 7. Six women were also among those executed, IHR said.

According to IHR, eight prisoners were executed on rape and murder charges at the Rajai Shahr prison outside Tehran on Wednesday alone.

There is also particular concern among activists over the disproportionately high numbers of Iran’s non-Persian ethnic minorities — especially Baluch and Kurds — who are being executed.

IHR said that it has in this period counted the executions of 67 prisoners from the Baluch minority, who adhere to the Sunni strain of Islam in mainly Shiite Iran and live in the southeast of the country.

Activists had also expressed dismay over the June 20 execution of a Kurdish man named Firuz Musalou, who had been convicted on charges of membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency in neighbouring Turkey.

His sentence was carried out in secret without his family being informed.

Amnesty International’s annual report on the death penalty had said in 2021 the number of executions had risen 28 percent to 314, the highest since 2017 and reversing declines since then.

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