Iran hangs extremist accused of murdering Shiite cleric

Iran on Monday hanged a Sunni extremist who was sentenced to death for killing two Shiite clerics and injuring another in early April.

A 21-year-old Uzbek national carried out a stabbing attack on April 5 at the shrine of Imam Reza, which honors one of the most revered figures in Shia Islam.

The killings occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when large numbers of believers gathered at the holy site in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city.

The head of the provincial judiciary, Gholamali Sadeghi, was quoted by the judiciary website Mizan Online as saying: “This morning, at the Vakilabad prison in Mashhad, a group of citizens and officials were Sentenced to death.”

The attackers “are accused of moharebeh (Persian for ‘war with God’) using weapons to terrorize the population inside and even outside the shrine,” Sadji added.

Tasnim news agency earlier reported that the attackers stabbed one victim 20 times.

On June 7, the judiciary announced Moradi’s death sentence and said his lawyer had appealed to the Supreme Court.

According to local media reports, Moradi entered Iran illegally from Pakistan a year ago and settled in the country’s main holy city of Mashhad.

Iranian leaders blamed “takfiri elements” for the attack. In Iran and several other countries, the term takfiri refers to the radical Sunni Islamic group.

One of the clerics, Mohammad Aslani, died immediately, while the death of the second cleric, Sadegh Darai, was announced two days later.

The attack came days after two Sunni clerics were shot dead outside a seminary in the northern Iranian town of Gonbad-e Kavus.

The three suspects in the case, also Sunnis, were arrested in late April but were said to have “no ties to terrorist groups”, state media reported at the time.

Sunnis make up 5 to 10 percent of Iran’s Shia-majority population of 83 million.

Human rights group Amnesty International said last month that Iran’s annual total of executions last year was the highest in four years.

It said in an annual report that Iran executed at least 314 people in 2021, up from 246 in 2020, mostly for drug-related cases.

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