A prominent dissident Sunni Muslim cleric Friday urged Iranian authorities on Friday to free thousands of detained protesters and stop executions.
As the three-month-old unrest churned on with street marches in the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, outspoken Sunni cleric Mowlavi Abdolhamid criticized the death sentences handed out to the arrested protesters.
"We compassionately recommend that you release the recent prisoners who were detained during these protests and not treat them harshly. Most of them are young and very young. Free the young men and women," Abdolhamid said.
"Don't charge them with (capital offences), and if they are, they should not be sentenced to death and put to death," the cleric said in a Friday prayers sermon.
After the sermon, demonstrators took to the streets of Zahedan, capital of the impoverished Sistan-Baluchistan province in the southeast. "This nation wants freedom, it wants a prosperous country!" they chanted, in videos posted on social media.
Earlier in the day, Amnesty International said 26 individuals faced possible execution after the Islamic Republic hanged two people arrested over the protests that erupted after the death in police custody of young Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on September 16.
“At least 26 people are at great risk of execution in connection with nationwide protests after Iranian authorities arbitrarily executed two individuals following grossly unfair sham trials in a bid to instill fear among the public and end protests,” Amnesty said in a statement. "Of the 26, at least 11 are sentenced to death and 15 are charged with capital offences and awaiting or undergoing trials," it added.
The 26 individuals have all been denied fair trials, including the rights to adequate defense and access to lawyers of their choosing; to be presumed innocent; to remain silent; and to receive a fair, public hearing, the statement read. According to information available to Amnesty International, at least 10 of them, including Hamid GhareHasanlou, Toomaj Salehi and Mohammad Ghobadlou were tortured, and authorities used their torture-tainted “confessions” or those of others as evidence. State media also broadcast forced “confessions” of several defendants prior to their trials.
The rallies continued in other parts of Iran, as unidentified attackers damaged a mosque in western Lorestan province early on Friday by throwing petrol bombs.
According to the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 495 protesters have been killed as of Thursday, including 68 minors. Sixty-two members of the security forces have also been killed. It said more than 18,400 are estimated to have been arrested.
Protests against the Islamic Republic were also held Friday in several cities across Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand.
International measures against the regime are also growing. On Wednesday, the Islamic Republic was ousted from a United Nations women's commission for policies contrary to the rights of women and girls, a move proposed by the United States.
The move was the first time in United Nations history that a country was expelled from the commission, and the second blow to the Islamic Republic over its brutal crackdown on protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in custody of hijab police. The first step to hold the Islamic Republic accountable was creating a fact-finding mission by the Human Rights Council. The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council voted on November 24 to launch an independent investigation into the regime’s deadly repression.