Since 1979 the Islamic regime in Iran stages court hearings and sham trials through torture and forced confessions for the purpose of intimidating, silencing and executing Iranians. REUTERS./

 – The U.N. human rights chief said that the death penalty was being weaponised by Iran’s government to strike fear into the population and stamp out dissent, saying the executions amounted to “state sanctioned killing”.

“The weaponization of criminal procedures to punish people for exercising their basic rights – such as those participating in or organizing demonstrations – amounts to state sanctioned killing,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said, adding that the executions violated international human rights law.

Iran hanged two men on Saturday for allegedly killing a member of the security forces during nationwide protests and more have since been sentenced to death. The U.N. Human Rights office has received information that two further executions are imminent, the statement said.

Iran Sentences Three More Protesters to Death amid International Criticism

Turk said in a statement that there were numerous violations of due process and fair trial in the cases including the application of vaguely worded criminal provisions, denial of access to a lawyer of choice, forced confession under torture and denial of a meaningful right of appeal.

One of the boldest challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution, the protests have drawn support from Iranians in all walks of life and challenged the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy by calling for the downfall of its rulers.

The start of executions, which have been condemned by a growing number of countries, has coincided with a slowdown in the protests.

(Reporting by Emma Farge. Editing by Madeline Chambers, William Maclean)

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