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Iran is one of the world's leading executioners with at least 251 people being put to death by Iranian authorities in 2019, according to Amnesty International. (file photo)

Iran has hanged two men for "terrorist acts" and another for murder and armed robbery, the judiciary's official Mizan news agency said.

The three were executed in the early morning of January 3 in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province, Mizan reported.

Two were identified as Hassan Dehvari and Elias Qalandarzehi, who were arrested in April 2014 after being found with "a large amount of explosives" and weapons, the report said.

The pair were convicted of the abduction, bombing, murder of security forces and civilians, and of working with the Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), Iranian media reported.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said the two had been tortured in detention.

Dehvari and Qalandarzehi were also arrested in possession of documents from Jaish al-Adl on "how to make bombs" as well as "takfiri fatwas," terms used by Iranian authorities to refer to religious decrees issued by Sunni extremists.

Jaish al-Adl has reportedly carried out several high-profile bombings and abductions in Iran in recent years.

In February 2019, 27 members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were killed in a suicide attack in Sistan-Baluchistan claimed by the group.

Sistan-Baluchistan is a volatile area near Iran's borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan where militant groups and drug smugglers frequently operate.

The third man executed was named as Omid Mahmudzehi. He was convicted of armed robbery and the murder of civilians, Mizan said.

Iran is one of the world's leading executioners. Amnesty International said in April that at least 251 people were executed by Iranian authorities in 2019.

Iran is also among a handful of countries that execute juvenile offenders.

Based on reporting by AFP, RFE/RL's Radio Farda, the BBC, and IRNA
Montenegrin President Milo Dukanovic (file photo)

Montenegrin President Milo Dukanovic has refused to approve amendments to a controversial law on religion that has been sharply criticized by ethnic Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Dukanovic sent the amendments back to parliament along with six other laws passed by the ruling coalition, his office said on January 2.

A total of 41 deputies of the ruling coalition, which is composed of pro-Serb parties and is closely aligned with the Serbian Orthodox Church, in the 81-seat legislature backed amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion in a vote on December 29 that was boycotted by the opposition.

The president’s office claimed it was unclear if the required number of lawmakers had been present in parliament during the vote.

Dukanovic heads the long-ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which is now in opposition.

If lawmakers vote for the amendments again, the president is obliged to sign them.

Under Montenegro's religion law adopted a year ago, religious communities must prove property ownership from before 1918.

That is the year when predominantly Orthodox Christian Montenegro joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes -- and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church was subsumed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, losing all of its property in the process.

The Serbian Orthodox Church, its supporters, and pro-Serbian parties claimed the law could enable the Montenegrin government to impound church property, though officials deny that they intend to do this.

The new government -- which came to power after elections in August -- said it would rewrite the law to ensure the properties stay in the hands of church, which is based in neighboring Serbia.

Serbia and Montenegro were part of a federation until 2006, when Montenegro declared its independence.

Montenegro is a member of NATO and aspires to join the European Union.

With reporting by dpa

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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