Today at dawn, 37-year-old Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and 19-year-old Arash Rahmanipour were hanged after being convicted of attempting to overthrow the Iranian regime.
The two were among over 100 detainees who were put on trial following street protests that erupted in Iran following the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
The protests shook the clerical establishment and plunged the Islamic republic into its worst crisis. The mass trial was condemned by rights groups as a parody of justice.
Ali Zamani and Rahmanipour's executions, the first of people tried after the post-election unrest, are seen as a move to create fear and intimidate the opposition.
The executions come ahead of the February 11 anniversary of the 1979 revolution that is expected to lead to fresh antigovernment protests.
Timing Of Arrests
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Tehran-based human rights lawyer who represented Rahmanipour, tells RFE/RL Rahmanipour's case had nothing to do with the postelection unrest.
She says he was arrested in April, three months before the presidential vote, and that she was denied the right to defend him adequately.
"The speed with which the sentence was issued and executed demonstrates that the goal is to create fear among the people, particularly after the Ashura" unrest on the religious holiday at the end of December, she says.
"I think the establishment is trying to transfer its own fear to the society while the carrying out of such sentences will only radicalize the society," Sotoudeh adds.
Sotoudeh says Rahmanipour was pressured in court
to make a false confession about his role in a plot to create disorder during the election.
According to some reports Ali Zamani was also arrested before the June election. He's also said to have been under pressure to make a similar confession.
Both men were charged with being members of an exiled monarchist group, "The Assembly of Kingdom," whose aims include toppling the Iranian regime.
Sotoudeh says Rahmanipour was originally detained for having materials that could be used for producing explosives.
"Some materials, chemical fertilizers, were found at his house, it was said that Arash was planning to use them to produce explosive materials," Sotoudeh says.
She adds that even if the accusation is true, having chemical fertilizer "is not a crime. Even if he had acquired it with the aim of producing explosives, he hadn't done anything." Death Sentences
Rahmanipour and Ali Zamani were among 11 detainees sentenced to death on charges that include "waging war against God" (Moharebeh) and membership in an armed opposition group. Observers warn that their execution could pave the way for more hangings over the postelection unrest.
Human rights groups including Amnesty International had called on Iran to review the death sentences.
Sotoudeh says Rahmanipour's execution is a clear violation of Iran's international human rights obligations, and that Iran "is responsible for an illegal and unfair execution of a human being and child called Arash Rahmanipour."
Earlier this month, Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign For Human Rights in Iran told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the postelection death sentences demonstrate more than ever the need for the Islamic republic to abolish the death penalty, "because it will prevent killings in relation to political events."
Iran has one of the highest rates of execution in the world.
The United States today strongly condemned the two executions. Reuters quotes White House spokesman Bill Burton as saying the hangings "will only serve to further isolate Iran's government in the world and from its people."
"We see this as a low point in the Islamic Republic's unjust and ruthless crackdown on peaceful dissent. Murdering political prisoners exercising their universal rights will not bring the respect and legitimacy that Iran seeks," Burton said.