Why is the Iranian government allegedly torturing an innocent man with a view to executing him for a crime he did not commit? Well, one theory goes that it's to act as a deterrent to revived anti-government protests, with him being merely the unlucky soul who best fit the needs of doing so. The successful toppling of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, and, before that, Tunisia's authoritarian regime, by public protests has emboldened local resistance movements, and made other dictatorships nervous. (And it's not just in the Middle East; during the Egyptian protests, China configured its national firewall to censor all news or commentary mentioning Egypt, just in case it set off another Tienanmen.)
Human rights groups have expressed alarm over a sharp increase in the use of capital punishment in Iran. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), 121 people have been hanged between 20 December 2010 and 31 January this year. An ICHRI report published in mid-January said that Iran has hanged an average of one person every eight hours since the beginning of the new year.