Pope Francis condemns Iran for executing protesters ‘demanding greater respect for women’

Pope Francis on Monday condemned the use of the death penalty by Iranian authorities to stop nationwide protests against the government.

He also compared the Vatican’s opposition to the death penalty to its opposition to abortion, arguing that both constitute violations of the fundamental right to life.

The pope’s comments are his first public remarks against the Iranian government over its protests, according to the Associated Press, in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

He said: “The right to life is also threatened in those places where the death penalty continues to be imposed, as is the case these days in Iran, following the recent demonstrations demanding greater respect for the dignity of women.

“The death penalty cannot be used for an alleged state justice, since it does not deter or do justice to victims, but only feeds the thirst for revenge.”

Francis, who has changed the church’s teaching on the death penalty, said it is “always inadmissible since it attacks the inviolability and dignity of the person”.

The Pope has previously been careful to criticize the Iranian government as he seeks to strengthen relations between the Vatican and the Shia world.

Tehran has executed four protesters since angry women-led demonstrations erupted in September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran police custody. She was held for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Two men – identified as Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini – were hanged on Saturday after being convicted by the Iranian Supreme Court, and three more were sentenced to death on Monday.

According to the Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency, the two men executed on Saturday were convicted of killing Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Basij volunteer force, in the town of Karaj outside Tehran on November 3.

At least 517 protesters have been killed since the protests began, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the unrest.

Iranian authorities have put the death toll at 300.

The executions were condemned by Western governments, including Britain, which called on Tehran to “immediately end violence against its own people”. “Britain strongly opposes the death penalty in all circumstances,” said British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

The United Nations called on Iran to halt all executions, saying it was shocking that Tehran continued to hang protesters despite the international outcry. “We regret the execution of two more protesters … following unfair trials based on coerced confessions,” it said in a statement.

Additional reporting by agencies

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