Iran has sentenced two LGBT activists to death, human rights groups reported on Tuesday.
A court in Urmia found Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani, 31, and Elham Choubdar, 24, guilty of “corruption on Earth.”
The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported that they were accused of promoting homosexuality, Christianity, and communicating with media opposed to the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s judiciary later confirmed the sentences but said they were connected to human trafficking and not activism.
“Contrary to the news published in cyberspace and the rumors that have been spread, these two individuals have been accused of deceiving women and young girls and trafficking them to one of the countries of the region,” the judiciary’s news outlet Mizan reported.
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LGBT activist arrested in Iran before crossing into Turkey
Amnesty International (AI) had described Seddiqi Hamedani, also known as Sareh, as a “gender non-conforming human rights defender” who it said had been detained “solely in connection with her real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity as well as her social media posts and statements in defense of [LGBT] rights.”
AI reported that she was arrested in October 2021 by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) while attempting to cross into Turkey to seek asylum.
The group said the accusations stemmed from her public defense of LGBT rights on social media and her appearance in a May 2021 BBC documentary about abuses that LGBT people were suffering in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, where she had been living.
Under Iranian law, same-sex sexual conduct is a criminal offense with punishments ranging from flogging to the death penalty.
The accusation of promoting Christianity was for wearing a cross necklace and attending a house church in Iran several years ago, Amnesty added.
Citizens who are not recognized as Christians, Zoroastrians, or Jews may not engage in public religious expression in Iran.