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Prison authorities were scheduled to execute Saman Nasim early yesterday. Nasim, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdistan province, was arrested when he was 17 for terrorism-related charges.

A day later, there is still no official confirmation of the execution. One of his brothers reportedly believes the execution has been carried out, and his other brother told Human Rights Watch the authorities only instructed the family to come pick up Saman’s belongings. In an interview with Voice of America’s Persian-language service, a third family member said authorities told her they transferred Saman to another prison on Wednesday. She added that she did not know if he was still alive. All this, of course, obscures the fact that Iran is a state party to international treaties that ban the execution of child offenders.

This guessing game is the sort of torture that Iran regularly inflicts, not only on those languishing on death row, but on their family and friends. It is both the result of the judiciary’s lack of transparency regarding executions of high-profile detainees, and their practice of pressuring families to not speak to the media. The psychological anguish on families is unimaginable.

It is possible, as we’ve learned from other cases, that officials have informed the family, even delivered the body for burial, but have threatened them to keep quiet or pressured them not to hold a funeral. But it is also likely that the family, like the rest of us, remains in the dark. We have documented cases in which judicial officials refused to inform family members about the status of their loved ones for months, never delivered the body, or secretly buried an executed prisoner.

Anything is possible, and little is predictable, when it comes to the brand of “justice” meted out by Iran’s revolutionary courts. Except, it seems, their utter disregard for the rights and dignity of defendants and their families, living or dead.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that authorities have a lot to gain from this lack of transparency, and the swirling rumors, some of which they may help spread. They must know that responsible journalists and rights groups will do their very best not to spread unsubstantiated rumors. Their credibility is at stake. So officials can afford to sit back and wait for the rumor mill on social media to feed off itself, the news swell and advocacy campaigns around this young man to die down, and the world to move on to the next tragedy. Somewhere else in the world.

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