March 5, 2010 / 9:10 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. deplores death sentence for Iranian protester

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it deplored reports that Iranian courts upheld the death sentence for a student arrested for throwing rocks during a protest and called his punishment disproportionate.

Opposition websites on Wednesday said an appeals court had confirmed the sentence against Mohammad-Amin Valian, whom they said was charged with “moharebeh” (waging war against God), acting against state security and insulting top officials.

“We find this disproportionate punishment deplorable and urge his immediate release,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of 20-year-old student, who backed pro-reform candidate Mirhossein Mousavi in June’s disputed election.

Valian was detained during protests on Ashura, the ritual Shi’ite day of mourning that fell on December 27, when eight people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces. It was the most violent unrest since the aftermath of the vote.

It was not immediately clear whether Valian, reported to have been a member of Mousavi’s local election office ahead of the presidential vote, was among a group of 11 people who Iranian media in January said had been sentenced to death in connection with election unrest.

Two of those put on trial after the election were executed in January while the cases of the other nine were at the appeals stage, the Iranian media reports at the time said.

“The United States notes with great concern reports the Iranian courts have upheld a death sentence for 20-year-old university student Mohammad Amin Valian,” Crowley said in the written statement.

“We join the international community in calling on Iranian authorities to release all political prisoners,” he added. “If the Iranian government wants the respect of the international community, it must respect the fundamental freedoms of its people.”

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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