Iran publicly executes two men after they posted YouTube clip of themselves committing an armed robbery.
They were tried through YouTube and hanged by remote control as hundreds captured their agonising last moments on mobile phones. But though the deaths of Alireza Mafiha and Mohammad Ali Sarvari had all the accoutrements of the 21st century, the essence of their executions was medieval. The pair, executed for robbery, were paraded before a baying crowd of 300 in a public park at the centre of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
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Shocking: Iranians witness the public execution of Alireza Mafiha and Mohammad Ali Sarvari in Tehran
The two men posted a video on YouTube in December showing them robbing and assaulting a man with a machete.
Amid the howls of grief and rage, a judge recounted their crime and delivered the verdict, that they would be hanged for "waging war against God." Sarvari seemed stoical. But the desperate Mafiha broke down and laid his head on the shoulder of a balaclava-clad Iranian police officer who put an arm around his back. Moments later nooses were looped around their necks as a group of women at the front of the crowd begged their captors for forgiveness. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. As the sun came up on Sunday morning, the executioners pressed the buttons to trigger their deaths.
Alireza Mafiha leans his head on the shoulder of a security officer moments before he was executed alongside
Mohammad Ali Sarvari Execution: Masked executioners place the noose around Mohammad Ali Sarvari's neck.
Seconds later both he was dead along with accomplice Alireza Mafiha in a very public display by Iran's hardline government
Alireza Mafiha and Mohammad Ali Sarvari were hanged after a YouTube video was aired on Iranian state television showing them attacking a man Mafiha, aged 23, and Sarvari, 20, were raised up by two extending cranes to a height of around 15 feet. They were dead within seconds.
The YouTube video showed four masked men on motorbikes approaching their victim before two attacked him with a machete before stealing his jacket and bag. According to the Iranian Students News Agency, Mafiha had told his trial they had committed the crime because they were poor. But this defence did not bring them any leniency from the authorities who have employed the harshest of methods to deal with relatively minor crimes. They were convicted of "waging war against God" - a broad charge that can cover actions ranging from anti-state organising to violent assaults which under Iran's interpretation of Islamic law is punishable by death. The pairs’ accomplices have been sentenced to ten years in jail and 74 lashes. They will then be exiled to a smaller town for five years. Iran carries out one of the world's highest number of annual executions, according to rights group Amnesty International. But most take place in prisons and a public hanging is very rare.
"The issue of security for our people is more important even than daily bread," said Sadeq Larijani, head of Iran's judiciary in December.