Predominantly Shi’ite Muslim Iran arrested Abdolmalek Rigi in February, four months after his Jundollah (God’s soldiers) group claimed a bombing which killed dozens of people, including senior officers of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
“Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged at dawn today…he was convicted for many crimes like being behind many deadly attacks…and killing dozens of innocent people,” state television said.
Iran grapples with ethnic and religious tension in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan where authorities have responded to attacks by Sunni rebels with a spate of hangings.
Rights groups and the West have condemned the hangings.
A Tehran Revolutionary court sentenced Rigi to death and the Supreme Court upheld the sentence, the semi-official Fars news agency said, adding that Rigi was executed inside Tehran’s Evin prison in the presence of “the families of some of the victims.”
“Abdolmalek Rigi’s charges also included armed robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking and the formation and leading of the terrorist Jundollah group,” Fars reported.
Iran says the Sunni group has links to Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and accuses Pakistan, Britain and the United States of supporting Jundollah to create instability in southeast Iran, where many of the country’s Sunni minority live.
The three countries deny the accusations.
Iran is at odds with the West over its nuclear programme, which it insists is aimed at generating power and not building bombs as the U.S., its European allies and Israel suspect.
“Jundollah was linked to members of foreign intelligence services, including members from America and the Zionist regime’s (Israel) intelligence services under the cover of NATO,” the official IRNA news agency quoted a court statement as saying.
Sistan-Baluchestan is a poor area near Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bombings and clashes between security forces, ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgents and drug traffickers have increased in recent years.
Iranian leaders reject claims by Western human rights groups that the Islamic Republic discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.
Ethnic Baluch, many with tribal links to their restive kin in neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan, make up an estimated one to three percent of Iran’s 70 million population.