Published on 4 May 2021 in Blasphemy news

Iran: two men sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’

The End Blasphemy Laws (EBL) Coalition is deeply disturbed to learn that the Iranian authorities have sentenced two men to death after they were convicted of ‘insulting the Prophet Muhammad.’

According to the Human Rights News Agency, the two prisoners detained in Arak Central Prison were informed about their death sentences on 22 April 2021. 

Details of the case continue to emerge. While the precise reason for the charges is not known, it has been revealed that one of the accused was arrested in May 2020, and is due to face prosecution later this year on additional charges.

The Iranian government jails and periodically executes dozens of individuals on charges of “enmity against God” (moharebeh). Although this crime is framed as a religious offense, and may be used against atheists and other religious dissenters, it is most often used as a punishment for political acts that challenge the regime (on the basis that to oppose the theocratic regime is to oppose Allah). 

A recent report by Amnesty International documents that Iran carried out more than 246 executions in 2020. Amnesty notes that, “[a]lthough recorded executions in Iran continued to be lower than previous years, the country increasingly used the death penalty as a weapon of political repression against dissidents, protesters and members of ethnic minority groups.”

Chapter two of Book five of the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran addresses crimes of ‘Insulting sacred religious values’ and ‘criminal attempt on national authorities’. Blasphemy is given a dedicated chapter Second Book, Part 2, Chapter 5 of the new Penal Code, under Article 513, and is punishable by death.

International law permits the use of capital punishment in limited circumstances – the “most serious of crimes”, namely intentional killing. ‘Blasphemy’ cannot and should never be equated with such heinous crimes.

The EBL Coalition calls on the Iranian authorities to overturn the sentences of these two men, and release them immediately and unconditionally.