Iran hangs 16 after Baluch border clash

Sixteen accused militants were hanged Oct. 26 at Zahedan prison in Iran's Sistan-Baluchistan province, on the Pakistani border—in apparent retaliation for the deaths of 14 border guards in an ambush just the night before. Officials blamed the attack outside Saravan on "anti-revolution guerrillas"—an apparent reference to the armed Baluch Sunni group Jundallah. But loca parialment member Hedayatollah Mirmoradzehi named a new Jaish al-Adl, or Army of Justice, as responsible for the attack. The BBC's Kasra Najisaid the mass execution "smacks of revenge killing by the judiciary."

Iran has emerged as a major drug trafficking route between Afghanistan and Europe. Officials say more than 4,000 police officers and soldiers have been killed in the past three decades in clashes with traffickers. (BBC News, Oct. 26)

Iran has  executed at least 82 people in the weeks since Hassan Rouhani was elected president in June, according to a UN investigator. Ahmed Shaheed, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said in a report presented to the General Assembly Oct. 23 that he's "alarmed by the spate of executions." Only 38 of the executions were officially announced, he alleged.

The Iranian mission rejected the report as a "non-objective and counter-productive exercise initiated by a group of countries with specific political claim against Iran." Rouhani freed dozens of political prisoners and student activists days before his attendance at the annual September UN meeting in New York. He shared a phone call Sept. 27 with President Barack Obama, a break in more than three decades' silence between US and Iranian leaders.

About 724 executions took place in Iran between January 2012 and June 2013, and at least 500 human rights defenders remain behind bars, according to Shaheed's report. About 600 journalists are blacklisted as operatives of an "anti-state" network. Women still experience discrimination, with all 30 registered female candidates seeking to run against Rouhani in the June election getting disqualified, said the report. (Bloomberg via Iran Focus, Oct. 24)

Also hanged Oct. 26, at a prison in the western city of Orumieh, was Kurdish activist Habibollah Golparipour, arrested in Mahabad in 2009 on charges of "acting against the national security" of the Iranian regime. (NCRI, Oct. 26)

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Iran hangs poet for 'waging war on God'

Iranian poet and activist Hashem Shaabani, 32, was hanged on Jan. 27. An Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal had sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others, last July on charges that included "waging war on God" (moharebe). Press reports said Shaabani was executed after his sentence was approved by President Hassan Rohani. Shaabani was an Iranian of Arab origin and a founder of the Dialogue Institute, which promoted understanding of Arabic culture and literature in Iran. (Poetry Foundation, Feb. 6)