Iran has executed an average of nearly two people every day in the first six months of this year, human rights groups say.
The sharp escalation in the use of capital punishment comes at the time when Tehran is fighting to prevent pro-democracy movements similar to those that shaken the Arab world from taking hold in the country.
Human rights groups monitoring the rate of executions in Iran said authorities have launched a fresh campaign of secret and mass hangings of prisoners jailed in the provinces.
According to Amnesty International, Iran has acknowledged the execution of 190 people from the beginning of 2011 until the end of June but at least 130 other people have also been reported to have been executed.
Iran Human Rights (IHR), an independent NGO based in Norway, told the Guardian it had recorded 390 executions since January, including two death sentences administered on Thursday.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), a US-based non-government organisation, said its records showed 320 executions; a combination of those publicly announced by the regime and those that have been taken place in secret.
Hadi Gaemi, executive director of the ICHRI, said: "The sharp rise of executions in Iran is a clear message that the state has no hesitation in using violence and applying it, no matter how arbitrarily, in holding on to power."
According to Gaemi, Iranian officials are using execution as a means to intimidate people to prevent popular discontent as the country heads towards the second anniversary of the unrest in the aftermath of the 2009 disputed presidential election.
Since that time what rights observers describe as "show trials" have come into vogue. Of particuliar note are trials for the ambigous charge of "mohabareh", or "enmity against God."
According to Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, mobareh is "imposed for a wide range of crimes, often fairly ill-defined and generally having some sort of political nature."
Nasrin Sotoudeh, lawyer for one man so charged, Arash Rahmanipour, told Reuters, "An execution with this speed and rush has only one explanation ... the government is trying to prevent the expansion of the current (opposition) movement through the spread of fear and intimidation."
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Ja'fari Dowlatabadi underscored the fact tht pursuing the death penalty was politically motivated.
"Today the Islamic system has firmly put its opponents and dissidents in their place," he said after several protesters were sentenced to death. "The people will not allow such incidents to reoccur in the country."