This article was originally published on July 20, 2020, on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Iran’s judiciary says the country has executed a man convicted of providing information to the United States and Israel about a top Iranian commander later killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq.
“Mahmud Musavi-Majd’s sentence was carried out on Monday morning over the charge of espionage so that the case of his betrayal to his country will be closed forever,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported on July 20.
Iranian authorities in June said Musavi-Majd passed on information about the whereabouts of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds Force, who was killed in a U.S. air strike near Baghdad in January.
The judiciary said last month that Musavi-Majd’s death sentence had been upheld by the Supreme Court and would be carried out “soon.”
The execution came a day after three men linked to anti-government protests last November received stays from the death penalty amid a massive social-media campaign calling for Iran to halt state executions.
In retaliation for Soleimani’s killing in the early hours of January 3, an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
Hours later, Iranian forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Iran blamed a misaligned missile battery and miscommunication between soldiers and superior officers.
Iranian officials did not say whether Musavi-Majd’s case was linked to Iran’s announcement in the summer of 2019 that it had captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
It said some of them had been sentenced to death.
The report comes after Iran’s judiciary announced on July 14 that a former Defense Ministry worker convicted of selling information to the CIA had been executed.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on July 14 that Reza Asgari had been in touch with the CIA during his last years serving at the Defense Ministry and sold the agency information about Iran’s missile program.
Esmaili said Asgari was executed a week earlier, adding that he had worked in the aerospace department of the Defense Ministry and retired four years ago.
A recent online protest against executions has been joined by many Iranians — including ordinary citizens as well as intellectuals, former politicians, and prominent artists.
In the face of the protest, Iran’s judiciary ordered a retrial for Amir Hossein Moradi, 25, Said Tamjidi, 27, and Mohammad Rajabi, 25.
Their lawyers said they were maintaining hope that the sentences could be reversed.
But the head of Iran’s judiciary, hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, downplayed that possibility.
“You should listen to protests, but unrest and riots that endanger the country’s security are our red line,” Raisi said on July 20.
The three were among many who were arrested in a brutal crackdown against demonstrators who took to the streets in dozens of cities and towns across Iran in November 2019.
Analysts said the social-media campaign was unprecedented in its scope and the level of participation of Iranians both within and outside Iran.
Amnesty International recorded 251 executions in Iran during 2019, making Iran second to China in state executions.