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The Aum Shinrikyo Executions: Why Now?

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With the execution of Aum Shinrikyo leader and six of his followers, Japan looks to leave behind an era of tragedy. 
On July 6, 2018, Japanese authorities executed seven members of the religious movement Aum Shinrikyo (Aum true religion, or supreme truth), which carried out the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack and a series of other atrocities. None of the seven of the executed men were directly involved in releasing the gas on that tragic day; four of those who did remain under a death sentence, and their executions may be imminent.
The seven executed were involved in planning and organizing the various crimes committed by Aum. Asahara Shoko (born Matsumoto Chizuo), was the founder and leader of the movement, having developed the doctrinal system instrumental to Aum’s violence and its concept of a final cosmic war of good (Aum) against evil (the corrupt material world and everyone — from the Japanese government to the general public — who lived in it). Asahara is believed to have given …

Fears for ‘child bride’ facing execution in Iran – Reprieve comment

Zeinab Sekaanvand
Zeinab Sekaanvand
A female prisoner in Iran who was arrested as a juvenile is facing execution after a forced ‘confession’, and could be hanged as early as today, according to reports.

Zeinab Sekaanvand was 17 when she was arrested in 2012. She was reportedly beaten for nearly three weeks before ‘confessing’ to the murder of her husband, whose abusive behaviour she had previously reported to the authorities. According to Amnesty International, she could be hanged in days. Ms Sekaanvand's execution was previously postponed because she was pregnant, and then scheduled again after she gave birth to a stillborn baby, the Times has today reported.

Iran carries out more executions per capita than any other country. Last year, the authorities executed nearly 1,000 people, the vast majority for non-violent alleged crimes such as drugs offences. Reports of unfair trials and forced ‘confessions’ under torture were common. Human rights organization Reprieve has raised concerns that the executions could be bolstered by UN counter-narcotics programmes, funded by other countries, which provide support for Iran’s police.

Last year, President Hassan Rouhani claimed that abolition of the death penalty in Iran would be “dangerous”, because “most executions” were for alleged drug offences.

News of Ms Sekaanvand’s hanging comes as Iran seeks an improvement in its relations with the international community, following the lifting of international trade sanctions earlier this year. In April, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, visited the country and announced that EU-Iranian relations had “turned a new page.” Last summer, former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond flew to Iran to reopen the UK embassy in Tehran, commenting during the visit that counter-narcotics was an area that Britain and Iran should be “ready to discuss.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve, said: “Iran’s government is overseeing a huge wave of executions even while Iranian leaders seek better relations with the international community – including the UK, the EU and the US. Many of the prisoners facing the noose were convicted for non-violent ‘crimes’ such as drug offences – while shockingly unfair trials and forced ‘confessions’ are the norm. The international community must urgently use their renewed links with Iran to demand a halt to this appalling wave of hangings – and to call off the execution of Zeinab Sekaanvand.” 

  • Details of Federica Mogherini's visit to Iran earlier this year are here, while Mr Hammond's visit to Iran last year was reported here.
  • Details of Ms Sekaanvand's case were reported by the Times today, here.

Source: Reprieve, October 13, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.

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