Recently, a friend asked the following, completely valid, question:
"What do you have to say about the reports of these protesters being executed?"
My short answer is this:
I don't approve of any form of capital punishment and wish that nobody were condemned and put to death, anywhere.
My longer, more pertinent answer is this:
The two young men who were executed at the end of January, Mohammad Reza Ali-Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, had nothing to do with the post-election protests. Even though almost EVERY single news outlet and human rights group has claimed that the men were arrested in the aftermath of the June 12th reelection of President Ahmadinejad, it's not true. Amazingly enough, in the English speaking press, the truth had to come from the US gov't-run Voice of America (of all places!) which, on January 30th, reported:
"Both [opposition] leaders [Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi] noted that the executed men 'were arrested months before the June 12 election and their cases had nothing to do with post-election events.'"That's coming directly from the leaders of the anti-Ahmadinejad movement! Apparently, the two condemned and executed men were found guilty of numerous things - a verdict I disagree with because I don't think the accusations warrant a death penalty, or that any charges do - including moharebeh, which means "taking up arms against Iran's Islamic system," inciting violence and insurrection, and being members of an organization called Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran (also known as Soldiers of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, Iran Monarchy Committee, Iran Royal Association, or Tondar), which is an anti-government terrorist group based mainly in Los Angeles that advocates for the forceful overthrow of the Islamic Republic and the restoration of Iranian monarchy, namely the deposed Pahlavi dynasty. Tondar has committed a number of violent acts in Iran, including the 2008 explosion of a mosque in Shiraz where 12 people were killed and over 200 injured, and has been accused of carrying out the recent (January 2010) assassination (via remote controlled motorcycle bomb) of Dr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a particle physics professor at Tehran University, although the group itself denies any responsibility.
The claims that Ali-Zamani and Rahmanipour were detained and convicted for their involvement in post-election actions is bogus since both men were arrested well before the June 2009 election for their connection to the 2008 mosque bombing and were both in prison during the election and subsequent fallout.
In an article, disingenuously titled "Iran 'executes' two over post-election unrest," the BBC even quotes Rahmanipour's lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, saying as much: "He was arrested in Farvardin [the Iranian month covering March-April] - before the election - and charged with co-operation with the Kingdom Assembly."
Nevertheless, the White House felt the need to condemn the execution of the two men tried and convicted of sedition. "We see it as a low point in the Islamic Republic's unjust and ruthless crackdown of peaceful dissent," Bill Burton, deputy press secretary for the White House, told reporters. "Murdering political prisoners who are exercising their universal rights will not bring the respect and legitimacy the Islamic Republic seeks," he continued. "It will only serve to further isolate Iran's government in the world and from its people."
Apparently, according to Obama's administration, it is every Iranian's sovereign right - or perhaps, duty - to work with separatist groups, funded by the United States, to commit violent acts against the Islamic Republic. This is now classified as "peaceful dissent."
So, my final answer is this:
While the death penalty is bad, demonizing, misinformed and deliberate anti-Iranian propaganda spread rapidly and rabidly by the Western press may be far, far worse.