The city of Nowshahr in the northern province of Mazandaran was the scene of a violent clash between armed security forces and anti-government protesters on September 21, 2022.
Security forces gunned down at least four demonstrators that night and arrested hundreds over the following days. Three of those detained have since been handed capital punishment, including 18-year-old Arshia Takdastan.
A revolutionary court in Mazandaran sentenced Arshia to death on January 4 for allegedly throwing a bottle and a stone at a police car during the protests.
The young man, whom the judiciary’s Mizan Online website described as the “leader of the riots in Nowshahr,” was convicted of "waging war against God" and "corruption on Earth," two charges that carry capital punishment.
"How could they accuse an 18-year-old child of being the leader of such protests? His family has presented to the court footage from CCTV cameras at the education center, which clearly showed that he was there until 7.30 p.m. But unfortunately, the court did not pay any attention to that," the teenager’s cousin, Parand Mahmoudi, told IranWire.
The violence in Nowshahr occurred five days after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police, which triggered the ongoing nationwide demonstrations against Iran’s clerical establishment.
The protest movement was met with a brutal state crackdown in which more than 500 were killed and over 18,000 were arrested. Around 20 people have been handed capital punishment in connection with the protests. Two of them were hanged on January 7 amid international outrage, bringing to four the number of people executed so far.
Blindfolded with a Gun pointed to his Head
Arshia, who had been living with his father since his parents separated, was arrested on the streets by intelligence agents on September 24, a day after the start of the academic year.
"Arshia had a class at an education center that evening...He left the school at 7.30 p.m. and reached the crowded Azadi Square at 8 p.m. He left the crowd after 15 minutes and was at home at 8.30. Now, they have accused him of being a leader of the September 21 protests in Nowshahr," Mahmoudi said.
In Mazandaran’s Sari prison, Arshia was locked up in a solitary cell measuring four square meters for 28 days and was interrogated for hours, his cousin said, adding that the family did not have any information about the teenager during that time.
"Forces blindfolded him and put a gun to his head. Arshia stutters. I'm sure he couldn't even scream against the harassment he was going through. He just signed whatever was put in front of him," according to Mahmoudi.
Arshia was tried with co-defendant Mehdi Mohammadi Fard, another 18-year-old resident of Nowshahr who was sentenced to death twice.
Javad Rohi, a 35-year-old man arrested almost at the same time as the two teenagers, has also been sentenced to death. He did not have a lawyer during his trial.
Arshia's lawyer is set to appeal the verdict against him to the Supreme Court after reading the case, his cousin said.