By SOMAYEH MALEKIAN, ABC News
(TEHRAN, Iran) — Iranians from a variety of political, economic and cultural backgrounds — lawyers, teachers, footballers, artists, students, activists — joined together in an unprecedented Twitter storm, sharing the hashtag #DoNotExecute to protest the judiciary upholding the death sentences of three men arrested after last year’s nationwide protests.
Five days after the campaign, Iran’s Supreme Court agreed with the retrial request of the men’s attorneys, who had gotten access to their clients’ case after the hashtag went viral.
“The request for retrial was accepted by the Supreme Court,” Babak Paknia, one of the lawyers, wrote on his Twitter account Sunday.
Saeed Tamjidi, 28, Mohammad Rajabi, 26, and Amirhossein Moradi, 26, were apprehended after the November uprising following a spike in fuel prices. Hundreds were killed and thousands were injured in the crackdown on the unrest.
“The unjust death sentence for November protesters is to create an atmosphere of fear and horror. But #DoNotExecute proves that no one is scared. It is rather a hidden anger,” Javad Heydarian, an Iranian journalist, wrote on his Twitter account during the campaign.
Two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi also objected, writing on Instagram: “Don’t make the sorrowful lives of Iranians even more bitter.”
Another demand from the many Twitter protesters was for lawyers to get a fair opportunity to defend their clients.
Mostafa Nili, a lawyer for Rajabi and Tamjidi, complained that he had no access to his clients’ cases, even at the appeals court.
“Every time we would go to the Supreme Court, we were told that the case had not been registered there. And, now, the decision of the primary court has been upheld without letting us have any right to defend,” Nili said in an interview with Shargh Daily.
With the online campaign and related hashtags trending on Twitter last Tuesday night, some media outlets speculated about the possibility of a retrial for the three men.
According to the Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the conservative party in Iran, “The head of the judiciary ordered a retrial for three death offenders, and the execution of the sentence has been practically stopped.”
However, the news was quickly denied by Mehdi Keshtdar, head of Mizan, the official news agency of the judiciary. He said the head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, issued no such order.
The contradiction left those following the case confused and frustrated. Meanwhile, hardliners who support the execution started their own campaign with the hashtag #DoTheExecution.
“They have been arrested in the middle of an armed robbery during the riots, and there have been clips on their cellphones of setting banks and offices on fire. And execution is the sentence for ‘moharebeh’ – waging war against God,” Sadegh Nikoo, a conservative journalist, tweeted.
Nili said there isn’t enough evidence to support the claims against his clients.
“Protesting and rioting are totally different. All of the three [men] insist that they have not taken any action of sabotage, setting fire or rioting and they have merely objected to the high prices,” Nili said. “Even sabotage punishment is not execution.”
After outrage spread on Twitter, lawyers for the three accused men said they finally gained access to their clients’ cases.
Hosein Taj, Moradi’s lawyer, confirmed that he read his client’s case on Wednesday in an interview with the moderate semi-official Ensaf News Agency.
“I believe there are problems in the formalities of the case,” he said. “Our clients were practically deprived of the presence of their lawyers.”
Taj also expressed hope that the outcome of the case would change, saying, “We have filed a request to put the implementation of the sentence on hold, and we will submit an appeal request in a few days.”
With the Supreme Court’s decision to retry the case, supporters hope the case ends with a different result.
Adding fuel to the fire were tweets from President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
“Executing these three people sends a terrible signal to the world and should not be done!” Trump tweeted, in part.
While some opposed to the executions welcomed Trump’s commentary, many found it to be little more than political grandstanding given U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Mehdi Mahmoudain, an Iranian reformist and a former journalist who himself has been jailed for criticisms of the system quoted Trump’s tweet and added: “Mr. Trump, Let those people address the I.R. and ask #StopExecution who do not have the blood of the Iranian nation on their hands. Your cruel and dishonorable sanctions have endangered the lives of thousands of Iranian citizens. Mr. President, please #ShutYourMouth.”
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