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Parents 'beg' Iran judiciary to spare death row son

 People protest against executions and detentions in Iran, in front of the Iranian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York City on December 17
People protest against executions and detentions in Iran, in front of the Iranian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York City on December 17

Paris: The parents of a young man who rights group warn is at imminent risk of execution over his involvement in Iran's protest movement issued a video pleading with the judiciary to spare their son's life.

Their appeal for the life of Mehdi Mohammad Karami comes as Amnesty International warns that at last 26 people are at risk of execution over the protests, the biggest challenge to the authorities since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran sparked global outrage by executing two protesters earlier this month. The Islamic republic has announced 11 death sentences in connection with the demonstrations, which it calls "riots" and blames on "foreign enemies" in the West. Authorities issued the capital sentences over sometimes-deadly violence, including against security force members. Rights groups say the legal processes have been rushed. They are concerned detainees have been tortured and forced to confess.

"I am Mashallah Karami, father of Mohammad Mehdi Karami," said the father in the video circulated on social media, sitting cross-legged on a carpet and flanked by his wife. He described his son as a "karate champion" who had won national competitions and been a member of the national team. "I respectfully ask the judiciary, I beg you please, I ask you.. to remove the death penalty from my son's case." His wife, her arms folded as if cradling a baby, then speaks to also ask for the death penalty to be revoked.

- Deprived of lawyer -

According to Amnesty, Karami is one of five people sentenced to death over the fatal assault on a member of the Basij militia during a funeral ceremony for a protester in the city of Karaj near Tehran.

It said he was convicted less than a week "after the beginning of a fast-tracked unfair group trial which bore no resemblance to a meaningful judicial proceeding." Mashallah Karami had told Iranian media that a family lawyer was not allowed to access his son's case, and a court-appointed lawyer failed to respond to the family's repeated calls. Karami's age has not been given but reports on pro-protest social media channels suggested he is in his early 20s like the two men already executed.

The social media reports said Karami's father found out about the death sentence in a telephone call from his son who had asked his mother not be told. Rights groups have accused Iran of using the death penalty as a weapon to intimidate the population and quell the protests that erupted three months ago over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

She had been arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating the country's strict female dress code. Iran has unleashed a crackdown arresting around 14,000 people, according to the UN, and killing 469 protesters according to Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR). The country's top security body in early December gave a toll of more than 200 people killed, including security officers. The two Iranian journalists Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi who helped expose the case of Amini by respectively reporting from the hospital and her funeral, have been held since September. The two women have now been moved from Tehran's Evin prison to Qarchak prison outside the capital where conditions have regularly aroused concern among rights activists, their families announced at the weekend.

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