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Iran executes four men over alleged links with Israel’s intelligence service

FILE - This March 2019, file photo, provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the state's electric chair in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law last week a bill that would essentially restart the state's stalled death penalty after a lack of lethal injection drugs has delayed several executions. The new law would let condemned inmates choose between the electric chair or a newly formed firing squad. (Kinard Lisbon/South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP, File)

Iran has executed four men accused of working with Israel’s intelligence service, Iranian state media reported.

The sentences for “intelligence cooperation” with Israel and “kidnapping” were carried out on Sunday, the Mizan news agency said.

Iran’s Supreme Court had upheld death penalties against them on Wednesday following their arrest in May.

The executions come at a time of heightened tensions in Iran after more than two months of protests.

Three other people were sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison for crimes against the country’s security, complicity in kidnapping and possession of weapons, the judiciary’s website said.

Iran and Israel are fierce regional rivals, and have been engaged in a long-running shadow war against each other. 

The charge of “kidnapping” referred to a case covered by Israeli media a month earlier, in which a man introducing himself as an associate from the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps was seen recounting an alleged plot to target Israeli diplomats in multiple European locations. 

Iranian media rejected the story, saying that the man was merely a farmer, whom a number of “thugs” had kidnapped in 2021 and forced him into saying specific phrases.

Israel is among a host of countries Iran has blamed for stoking the wave of demonstrations, which were sparked by the death of a young woman in custody but reflect deep discontent at the government. 

Iran’s judiciary has already confirmed six death sentences over the protests, and rights group Amnesty International says that, based on official reports, at least 21 people currently on trial are charged with crimes that could see them hanged.

Iran currently executes more people annually than any nation other than China, according to rights groups.