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Thousands in Paris Protest Iranian Rights Abuses as Rouhani Arrives to Sign Business Deals

As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met with French President Francois Hollande and signed major business deals in Paris, thousands marched in protest of human rights abuses carried out by Tehran, Reuters reported on Thursday. Rouhani’s visit to France was the first by an Iranian president since 1999.

While the countries hailed the commercial agreements “as symbols of thawing relations,” an estimated 3,000 protesters took to the streets to condemn the deteriorating human rights situations in Iran under Rouhani, who was elected in 2013 as a reformer.

An activist from the group FEMEN dangled from a bridge in a mock hanging to draw attention to the soaring execution rate in Iran, which leads the world in per-capita hangings and is one of the only countries to use the death penalty against minors. According to a new report by Amnesty International, at least 73 juveniles were executed by Iran between 2005 to 2015, while 160 remain on death row.

Among the deals announced was the sale of 118 Airbus jets to Iran and an agreement with the French corporation Total to purchase some 200,000 barrels of crude from Iran. Shipping, agriculture, and water management agreements were also reached.

France was Rouhani’s second and final stop on his European trip. Earlier this week, he visited Rome boost business ties with Italy, where during he press conference he claimed that Iran does not support terrorism.

According to the U.S. State Department, Iran has provides funds, arms, and training to various terrorist groups throughout the Middle East, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Iraqi Shiite militias.

Former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Maria Terzi wrote on Wednesday that the nuclear deal would not lead Iran to moderate its behavior as “European governments are willing to talk with Rouhani about oil deals and trade partnerships even if it means actively ignoring Iran’s worsening human rights situation, its sponsorship of terror, and its destabilizing activities in the Middle East.”

Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Iran, said in October that the high rate of executions under Rouhani is an “unprecedented assault on the right to life in Iran.”

While Rouhani has often been characterized as a moderate, human rights advocates say his term in office has been marked by a steady increase in repression, including the suppression of free speech, oppression of women and gays, government-sanctioned discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and the imprisonment and torture of dissidents. Shortly after his election in 2013, Rouhani appointed Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, known as the “Minister of Murder” for his role in thousands of summary executions in the 1980’s, to the post of justice minister.

[Photo: Hanif Jazayeri / YouTube ]