Iranian couple's plea to judiciary to spare death row son falsely linked to killing of Filipino in Kuwait

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A video of a couple pleading that their son be spared from execution has been circulating in Facebook and TikTok posts that falsely claim they are the parents of the suspect in the killing of a Filipino worker in Kuwait. But the clip, viewed tens of thousands of times, shows the parents of a man executed in Iran in connection with the country's protest movement following a trial condemned as "unfair" by the United Nations.

The 47-second clip has been viewed over 5,000 times since it was shared on Facebook on January 28, 2023.

"Look: The parents of the suspect in the killing of Jullibee Ranara (sic) issue a plea. Justice for our fellow Filipino," reads the Tagalog-language post.

Jullebee Ranara was a domestic worker found dead in Kuwait on January 21, the Philippines' Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople told Philippine media.

Ranara's killing has fuelled misinformation debunked by AFP here, here and here.

Ople said the suspect in the case is the 17-year-old son of the family Ranara worked for but did not disclose further details.

The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait said in a statement on January 29 that the suspect "has been arrested and is currently in detention".

The clip's English-language subtitles show the couple identifying themselves as the father and mother of Mohammad Mehdi Karami.

They both ask the judiciary to spare their son from the death penalty.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on February 10, 2023

Similar clips have been viewed more than 60,000 times in false Facebook posts here and here and TikTok here.

Comments from some users indicate they believed the claim.

"Your son deserves to be imprisoned," one said.

"That punishment is right for your son," another commented.

But Mohammad Mehdi Karami was an Iranian protester executed on January 7, 2023.

The clip shows his parents' earlier plea to Iran's judiciary to spare his life.

Keyword and reverse image searches of keyframes found the clip uploaded on Twitter on December 18, 2022, weeks before Ranara's killing.

The Persian-language tweet by Iranian journalist Mehdi Beyk, a reporter for local newspaper Etemad, reads in part: "A request by Mohammad Mehdi Karami's parents to stop (his) execution. Just being in front of the camera and saying (these) words was difficult for them, with hours spent just to record these 47 seconds."

Below is a screenshot comparison of the clip in the false posts (left) and the video uploaded on Twitter by Beyk (right):

A screenshot comparison of the clip in the false posts (left) and the video uploaded on Twitter by Beyk (right)

AFP reported on the parents' plea here.

According to the report, Karami’s father describes his son as a "karate champion" who won national competitions and was a member of the national team.

He is quoted saying: "I respectfully ask the judiciary, I beg you please, I ask you... to remove the death penalty from my son's case."

The report adds: "His wife, her arms folded as if cradling a baby, then speaks to also ask for the death penalty to be revoked."

A screenshot of the video was also featured in a CNN report here on December 23, 2022.

Karami was executed along with fellow Iranian Seyed Mohammad Hosseini for killing a member of the Basij paramilitary force during a protest in Iran's Alborz province.

Prosecutors said the militiaman was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester.

The executions of Karami and Hosseini drew international condemnation, with the UN human rights office saying they followed "unfair trials based on forced confessions".

Iranian authorities have executed more than 50 people in 2023, Norway-based Iran Human Rights said in January, adding that the surging use of the death penalty aims to create fear as protests shake the country.

Thousands have been arrested in Iran in a crackdown on protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, in September 2022.

She had been arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating the country's strict female dress code.