BEIRUT, Lebanon - Iran on Tuesday executed a man accused of spying for Israel and another for allegedly distributing CDs and leaflets promoting an outlawed opposition group. The hangings come amid a crackdown on activists that has coincided with unpopular economic austerity measures.
Ali Akbar Siadat was accused of peddling military secrets to Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel. Ali Saremi was an alleged member of the extremist group Mujahedin Khalq. Both were hanged at dawn inside Tehran's Evin Prison, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Both men were arrested and accused of their crimes years ago, and activists said they were likely executed now as part of an attempt to send a message to the opposition. Public discontent is growing after a drastic reduction in fuel and food subsidies that has sent prices skyrocketing.
Those who question the government reduction of subsidies have been accused of "economic sedition" meant to undermine the Islamic Republic.
"If anyone wants to abuse the atmosphere that has come about, strict measures will be taken against them," Ali Mohammad Azad, governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province, told state television Saturday.
On Sunday, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jaffar Dowlatabadi acknowledged that a prominent economist, Fariborz Raisdana, had been arrested because he was trying to "subvert" the subsidies plan in radio interviews.
Already, there are signs that Iranian authorities are preparing the public for a difficult road ahead. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd Tuesday in Karaj, the capital of the newly created urban province adjacent to Tehran, that the harsh measures would help Iran overcome poverty and unemployment "in five or six years."
According to IRNA, citing information posted to the website of the Tehran prosecutor, Siadat allegedly began collaborating with Israeli intelligence in 2005, passing on "classified information" to Tel Aviv in exchange for $60,000. He used a business as his cover and "gradually began dispatching secret military information," including the number of Iranian warplanes, activity at military airports, navigational systems, and aviation accidents.
According to the reports, Saremi has allegedly long been a member of the Mujahedin Khalq, a cultlike extremist group that lost much of its credibility among Iranians after teaming up with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.