Middle East

Iran executes ‘Sultan of Coins’ for financial crimes


(CNN)- Iran executed two men for financial crimes early Wednesday, punishments that were quickly assailed by Amnesty International as disproportionate and reflective of Tehran’s “shameless disregard for the right to life.”

Vahid Mazloumin, a mogul known for his work in the gold coin trade and nicknamed the “Sultan of Coins,” and his accomplice Mohammad-Esmaeil Qassemi were found guilty of forming a “smuggling gang” that manipulated the domestic currency market and made “illegal deals,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news said.

Mazloumin, 58, was arrested in July and sentenced to death in October for allegedly hoarding the coins, a move which Iran said destabilized the country’s currency market, IRNA reported.

The Iranian rial has been in a nosedive this year, largely due to the Trump administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions against Tehran after the White House abandoned the Iran nuclear deal. Many Iranians have reportedly rushed to buy gold, foreign currencies and precious metals to protect their savings, as the rial is estimated to have plummeted by around 70%.

The IRNA report said that “in recent months, (the) economic situation and the instability in the Forex market have caused popular discontent.”

Amnesty International called the trial of the two men “grossly unfair” and condemned the decision to execute the men for non-violent crimes.

“With these abhorrent executions the Iranian authorities have flagrantly violated international law and once again displayed their shameless disregard for the right to life,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director.

“Use of the death penalty is appalling under any circumstances but it is even more horrific given that these men were convicted after a grossly unfair show trial that was broadcast on state television. Under international human rights law, the death penalty is absolutely forbidden for non-lethal crimes, such as financial corruption.”

International human rights groups have long criticized Iran for its use of capital punishment. Tehran has reportedly executed five minors this year — one of only four countries to do so since 2013, according to Human Rights Watch.

Earlier this year, Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved a request by the head of the country’s judiciary to set up special courts to deal with financial crimes. The courts have sentenced several people to death since then, according to Amnesty International.

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