The Iranian government has for the first time reacted to the "Stop Executions in Iran" hashtag that has been used by more than 10 million Twitter users since Wednesday evening July 15.
The hashtag was first used to stop the execution of three young men who were arrested during the November protests in Iran, but it gradually turned into a call on Iranian officials to abolish capital punishment.
In a commentary published by the Iran newspaper, the mouthpiece of the presidential administration administration, on Saturday July 18, Ali Rabiei the spokesperson for Hassan Rouhani's government called for "respecting the natural call made by public opinion."
Rabiei described the promotion of the hashtag by millions of Iranians as "a civil action by citizens who want to be heard" and called for "the rulers' response and hearing out the people's straightforward call."
However, he criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's use of the hashtag and his support for Iranian netizens as "an unbelievable outrageous attempt to ride the wave."
Over 10 million tweets and retweets using the Persian hashtag "Stop Executions in Iran" created a storm in cyberspace after the Iranian Judiciary issued death verdicts for Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi for taking part in the demonstrationss against a sudden three-fold rise in the price of gasoline in November which soon turned into a nationwide protest against economic problems and financial corruption. Some protesters had even called for an end to the rule of clerics in Iran.
Using the same hashtag, President Trump wrote in tweets in Persian and English on July 15: "Three individuals were sentenced to death in Iran for participating in protests. The execution is expected momentarily," President Trump tweeted, adding, "Executing these three people sends a terrible signal to the world and should not be done! #StopExecutionsInIran."
Trump's tweets were followed by more similar posts by other statesmen from the rest of the world including the Foreign Ministers of Swede and Denmark who said they were "deeply shocked" by the verdict.
The spokesman for the Iranian government described these reactions as "noise" and opined that "They ride the waves in order to disrupt the process of dialogue in Iran and to create a deadlock."
Meanwhile, Rabiei who was a high-ranking intelligence official for many years, added that some of the reactions by the people were "fabricated voices guided by the enemies' propaganda machine."
The users who promoted the hashtag against executions in Iran also reminded each other and the government of many cases of murders, executions and tortures that took place during the past four decades, in a large part of which Rabiei was a key intelligence official at least partly responsible for "state-sponsored crimes."
In other parts of his commentary, Rabiei tried to distance himself and the administration from the events in the past, by blaming the Judiciary for the executions.
Iranian Judiciary officials have still not officially reacted to the hashtag. However, the action on social media appears to have had some impact as Babak Paknia, a defense lawyer for the three prisoners sentenced to death as well as two other lawyers, Hossein Taj and Mostafa Nili were allowed access to their case files for the first time.
Paknia said that Judiciary officials have finally agreed that the defense lawyers may intervene in the case.