Iranian authorities executed three Turkish nationals for drug trafficking last year only 11 days after a high-profile visit to Tehran by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has emerged, The Guardian reports.
Iran – which executed nearly 1,000 people last year, more than any other country apart from China – usually refrains from sending foreign nationals to the gallows, especially in cases involving countries with which Tehran has maintained friendly relations.
The family of a 46-year-old man, Faruk Guner, a father of nine children, confirmed to the Guardian that he was executed. He was a lorry driver working between Afghanistan and Turkey who passed through Iran. “We tried for four years to save him. They didn’t tell us that he was going to be executed. They hanged him in the morning; we got the news in the afternoon,” Guner’s brother said.
The information about the executions was first received by the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR), which closely monitors Iran’s use of capital punishment. The group said two other Turkish nationals, identified as Mehmet Yilmaz and Matin, whose surname is not known, were executed at the same time. Activists say drug traffickers do not usually receive a fair trial in Iran.
Most executions in Iran are for drug offences. As a neighbor of Afghanistan, a leading supplier of the world’s drugs, Iran faces big challenges at home, with a young population susceptible to an abundance of cheap and addictive drugs. However, the alarming rate of executions has sparked a debate inside the country and parliamentarians are considering a proposal to replace the death penalty in such cases with imprisonment.
The three Turks were executed in April 2015, a little more than a week after Erdogan met with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran.
The countries, which have maintained good ties for several decades, have been at odds over regional issues in recent years and relations were frosty at the time of Erdogan’s visit. However, they have since improved. Iran firmly backed Erdogan against the failed coup attempt earlier this year and Turkey is realigning itself towards Russia, Tehran’s main ally.