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Iran Executes Businessman Dubbed 'Sultan Of Bitumen' For Alleged Economic Crimes

Iranian tycoon Hamid Baqeri-Dermani appears in a court in Tehran on September 4.

Iran has executed a businessman known as the "Sultan of Bitumen" sentenced to death by a fast-track court set up to fight economic crimes, Iranian media report.

Hamidreza Baqeri-Dermani had been convicted of "spreading corruption on earth", Iran’s most serious crime under Islamic laws, for offenses including bribery and fraud, the state-controlled television said on December 22.

His October death sentence was upheld by the supreme court.

The special courts -- whose rulings cannot be appealed, except in the case of death sentences -- were established in August with the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said punishments for those accused of economic corruption should be "carried out swiftly and justly."

Bagheri Dermani is the third trader to be executed since the launch of an anticorruption drive over the summer.

In November, Iran hanged Vahid Mazloumin, labeled by the Tehran police chief as the "Sultan of Coins" and his alleged accomplice, Mohammad Ismail Ghasemi, following their September convictions for currency manipulation and for "spreading corruption on Earth.”

The courts have also jailed dozens of businessmen and traders for up to 20 years.

Iranian authorities have said they're determined to crack down on "economic disruptors" accused of exploiting shortages and fluctuations in gold and currency prices.

The New York-based Center For Human Rights in Iran has criticized the economic courts for "gravely violating the right to due process and the right to a fair trial in Iran."

Iran has experienced a sharp economic downturn this year, fueled partly by U.S. President Donald Trump's decision in May to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose tough economic sanctions.

Growing public anger over high inflation, economic hardship, and widespread corruption has in past months led to sporadic street protests in Tehran and other cities, with the demonstrators chanting antigovernment slogans.

With reporting by Mizan, IRNA, Reuters, AP, and AFP