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Switzerland stopped Iran executing minors: diplomat

Person in Italy holding sign for Iran to stop executions
Iran's execution of protesters has drawn condemnation worldwide. Keystone / Alessandro Di Marco

Iran has held back from executing minors thanks to Switzerland’s interventions, according to a top Swiss diplomat.

The Middle East country is seeking to quell weeks of demonstrations and rioting by publicly hanging protesters.

The situation could be worse but for the intervention of the Swiss embassy in Tehran, Livia Leu told the SonntagZeitung newspaper on Sunday.

“We have communicated unequivocally that the executions are unacceptable and must be stopped immediately,” said Leu. “We have already been able to make things happen: thanks to our intervention, for example, death sentences against minors were not carried out.”

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Leu was Swiss ambassador in Tehran between 2009 and 2013 and is now Switzerland’s chief negotiator with the European Union.

Switzerland has retained direct diplomatic relations with Iran and represents United States and Saudi Arabia interests in Tehran – so-called ‘protecting power’ mandates.

No further sanctions

Iran has witnessed protracted civil unrest following the arrest and death of a woman for not covering her head.

Mahsa Amini died in September while in the custody of the Islamic Republic’s morality police who detained her for “inappropriate attire”, prompting nationwide protests during which women have removed and burnt headscarves.

Despite adopting previous United Nations and European Union sanctions against Iran, Switzerland has stopped short of measures aimed specifically at Tehran’s repression of its own citizens.

“We do not participate in those sanctions that could jeopardise our open and critical dialogue with the authorities,” said Leu.

“Parliament has enshrined in law that Switzerland is committed to peacebuilding, and this is also stipulated in the constitution. If you want Switzerland to continue its good offices, you have to be able to accept that it is a bit more discreet and seeks contact with all sides.”

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