World News

Iran hangs two on rebel charges: state TV

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has executed two men who it said belonged to a Sunni Muslim rebel group in the country’s southeast, state television said on Tuesday.

Rights groups said one of them, Yaqoub Mehrnahad, was a social activist who was convicted after an unfair trial.

The state-run Press TV said on its website that Mehrnahad and Abdolnasser Taheri were hung for crimes including “moharebeh”, or enmity against God.

“Two members of this terrorist group were executed early on Sunday,” the head of the provincial justice office, Ebrahim Hamidi, was quoted as saying.

Predominantly Shi’ite Muslim Iran has linked the Jundollah (God’s Soldiers) group to al Qaeda. It operates in an area where security forces and drug smugglers often clash and is home to Iran’s mostly Sunni Muslim ethnic Baluchis.

In 2007, Iran blamed Jundollah for kidnapping 30 people in Sistan-Baluchestan province. They were freed after being taken to Pakistan. Jundollah claimed responsibility the same year for an attack on a Revolutionary Guards bus in which 11 soldiers were killed.

Iranian officials have said that the group’s leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, heads al Qaeda’s network in Iran.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a non-governmental organization run by activists outside Iran, said the judiciary gave no evidence to link Mehrnahad to Jundollah.

Mehrnahad was the director of a non-government agency in Sistan-Baluchestan, the Voice of Justice Youth Association, and had been critical of local officials, it said.

The group did not mention Taheri, the other person who Press TV said was executed in prison in the city of Zahedan.

New York-based Human Rights Watch in June also described Mehrnahad as a social activist. It said he was sentenced in February after a trial that failed to meet international standards.

Iran routinely dismisses Western charges of rights abuses, saying they are acting on Islamic sharia law.

Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Angus MacSwan