Iran sentences bank guard to death for killing senior Shia cleric

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A court in Iran on Wednesday handed down a death sentence to a man for the murder of a senior Shia cleric at a bank in April, state media reported.

The unnamed 50-year-old man, who worked as an armed guard at the bank in the northern city of Babolsar where the incident took place, was convicted of shooting dead Abbas-Ali Soleimani and sentenced to death on murder charges.

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A judicial official quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency said that the verdict would be implemented once all legal formalities were completed.

The official said that the guard received a “qesas” sentence, which is Iran’s Islamic law of retribution. According to Islamic law, the qesas sentence can be waived if the victim’s family chooses to pardon the convict.

CCTV footage released by state media soon after the incident took place showed the guard calmly approaching Soleimani from behind and shooting him dead.

State news agency IRNA cited the bank guard at the time as saying that he did not know who Soleimani was and that he had mistakenly believed him to be the brother of a bank employee with whom he had a dispute.

Soleimani, 75, was the most senior Iranian cleric to be killed in years. He was a member of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that supervises, appoints and in theory, can sack the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader.

He was also previously a representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the restive southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.

Shia clergy hold significant power in Iran, with clerics dominating positions of authority in the country. The supreme leader and the heads of two out of three branches of government are all clerics.

Iran ranks second only to China in terms of the number of executions carried out annually, according to human rights organizations.

The Islamic Republic has executed at least 270 people since the beginning of 2023, according to Norway-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR).

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