In what has been perceived as a victory for the social media campaign against capital punishment in Iran, the country's Supreme Court has ruled to reconsider the death sentences issued for three young political activists.
The trio who are in their twenties are Saeed Tamjidi, Mohammad Rajabi and Amirhossein Moradi, who were arrested for taking part in the nationwide protests in November 2019 triggered by economic hardship but with strong anti-regime manifestations.
Last week, the Supreme Court had confirmed the death sentence issued by the Court of First Instance.
The move gave rise to one of the most widespread online campaigns in Iran as over 11 million Iranians promoted the hashtags “Don't Execute” in Persian and "Stop Executions in Iran" in English. World leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump and several European officials joined voices with the campaign amplifying the hashtags.
Using the hashtag, Trump had tweeted on 15 July: "Executing these three people sends a terrible signal to the world and should not be done!"
The process of for carrying out execution stopped immediately after the Supreme Court's ruling on Sunday July 19.
The defense lawyers of the three men said the Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider the case. Usually in similar cases, the Supreme Court sends the case to a lower court at equal standing with the first instance court to launch fresh investigations into the case.
The defense lawyers told reporters in Tehran on Sunday that the new branch of the Tehran Court is likely to revoke the death sentences and put the case on hold until a new ruling is made.
Lawyers in Tehran say the defense lawyers must have convinced the Supreme Court that the verdict violated article 474 of the Iranian law which calls for reconsidering indecisive cases to reach to a consensus among the judges.
Another option would have been relying on Article 477 which calls on the Judiciary Chief to intervene and revoke the previous ruling and order a new round of investigation and hearing.
However, there are no independent courts in Iran, so if a verdict is sent for review it means political leaders have intervened. That could mean that the serious opposition inside and outside Iran to the verdicts must have given a pause to Iran’s rulers. Even UN experts called for revoking the ruling.
A defense lawyer announced following the issuance of the death sentence last week that they had not been given the chance to go through the case file before the verdict was issued and that they saw the dossier for the first time after the verdict was announced.
Babak Paknia, one of the defense lawyers said that according to Iranian laws, defense lawyers must be present during the investigations in all cases that might lead to life imprisonment or a death sentence.
The lawyers had said on July 1 that the case against their clients was based on “confessions that were extracted under aberrant conditions.” They also criticized what they said were irregularities in legal procedures, such as the judiciary’s refusal to grant them access to the case files.
Last Tuesday, Judiciary Spokesman Gholamhiossein Esmaili broke the news about the confirmation of the death sentences but did not say when it was going to be carried out.
The three young men were accused of armed clash with security forces, illegal exit from the country, taking part in protests and committing acts of arson. The court initially sentenced them to 38 years in jail and receiving 222 lashes as well as handing them death sentences.
It is also possible that the apparent turnaround by Islamic republic authorities could just be a delaying tactic not to carry out the executions for the time being, given the general restive mood in the country, highlighted by sudden protests July 16 in two cities.
While the new ruling by the Iranian Supreme Court has given rise to hopes about lifting the death sentences for the three young men in Tehran, activists on social media have expressed concern about other executions planned to be carried out elsewhere in the country. They insist that the social media campaign should call for abolishing capital punishment all together rather than focusing on individual cases.