DUBAI (Reuters) - Special courts set up in a drive against financial crime have sentenced three people to death in Iran, state television reported on Sunday, as the country faces renewed U.S. sanctions and a public outcry against profiteering and corruption.
A judiciary official also warned truck drivers holding a nationwide strike over pay and high prices of “harsh penalties” if they continue their protests, state media said.
The special Islamic revolutionary courts were set up last month to try suspects quickly after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for “swift and just” legal action to confront an “economic war” by foreign enemies.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, quoted by state TV, said the courts handed down out death sentences to three defendants after convicting them of “spreading corruption on earth”, a capital offense under Iran’s Islamic laws.
Mohseni Ejei did not name the three but said the sentences could be appealed to the supreme court, the TV reported.
Iranian officials have accused arch-foes the United States and Israel, as well as regional rival Saudi Arabia and government opponents living in exile of fomenting unrest and waging an economic war to destabilize Iran.
Mohseni Ejei said 32 other defendants were sentenced to jail terms of up to 20 years for economic crimes, the official news agency IRNA reported.
In May the United States pulled out of a 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Washington has reimposed a number of sanctions on Iran, and it is planning to impose heavier sanctions in November aimed at the Islamic Republic’s oil sector.
The rial currency has lost about 70 percent of its value since April under the threat of revived U.S. sanctions, with heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings.
The cost of living has also soared, sparking sporadic demonstrations against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans.
Mohseni Ejei warned truck drivers who have continued their protests for higher wages and affordable parts despite several rounds of arrests.
“Harsh penalties await those who ... block lorry traffic on roads,” he said, according to IRNA.
General prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said last week that protesting drivers may face death sentences under stern laws against highway robbery, the state broadcaster IRIB reported on Thursday.
On Sunday, 153 members of the 290-seat parliament wrote to the government, urging an amicable resolution of the conflict in which dozens of striking drivers have been arrested for allegedly blocking roads and trying to pressure colleagues to join the strike, according to Iranian news agencies.
“A failure to resolve the problems of the truck drivers who make up a group of over 400,000 people has led to disruptions in recent days in the transportation of fuel and goods in the country, while this could be prevented by timely measures,” IRNA quoted the MPs as saying in the letter.
Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Adrian Croft