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Iranian karate champion given 15 minutes to plead case before receiving death penalty

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was also not given final rights to speak to his family before execution. 

Mahsa Amini protest in front of the Iranian Consulate Photo by Cemal Yurttas/ dia images via Getty Images

Mohammad Mehdi Karami, a national karate champion who was executed in Iran on Jan. 7, was given a mere 15 minutes to defend himself in court before being sentenced to death.

The 22-year-old was one of four men executed for their alleged involvement in nationwide protests in Iran four months ago related to the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police for “improperly” wearing her hijab and died in a hospital in Tehran as a result of police brutality.

Amini’s death led to widespread protests across Iran, calling on improved rights for women in the country. The Iranian regime has since cracked down on protests, leading to more than 450 deaths and dozens of arrests.

Karami was arrested in connection with the alleged murder of a paramilitary force member on Nov. 3 and was convicted on Dec. 5 in a sham trial that human rights group Amnesty International said “bore no resemblance to a meaningful judicial proceeding.”

His lawyer, Mohammad Hossein Aghasi, also revealed that Karami had begun a dry food hunger strike in protest against his sentence.

In December, Karami’s parents posted a video to social media begging Iran’s regime to spare his life.

“My son is among the karate champions of Iran and has several national titles and was the fourth ranked member on Iran’s national team,” his father said at the time. “I beg of you to please lift the execution order.”

Karami—an Iranian-Kurdish karate champion—was also not given final rights to speak to his family before execution.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has since threatened that “identification, trial and punishment” of all those who authorities believe were involved in violence will continue.

About the author: Karim Zidan is an investigative reporter for Bloody Elbow focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. His is also a contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian. (full bio)

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