Iran rejects Dutch complaint over hanging

TEHRAN Tue Feb 1, 2011 6:24am EST

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran rejected on Tuesday Dutch outrage over the hanging of one of its citizens, saying the West should applaud its tough penalties for drug traffickers.

Zahra Bahrami, 45, who had both Dutch and Iranian nationality, was hanged on Saturday for drug smuggling, a charge her family says was fabricated after she was arrested for taking part in anti-government protests in 2009.

The Netherlands froze official contacts with Iran, saying it had informed The Hague just hours earlier that legal proceedings were still under way. A Dutch foreign affairs ministry spokesman called the execution "an act committed by a barbaric regime".

"Dutch officials made certain comments, it looks like they do not have enough information regarding the case of this lady," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference. "They have made these hasty comments."

Tehran does not recognise dual nationality and Mehmanparast said any attempt by a foreign government to intervene in such a case amounted to interference in Iran's domestic affairs.

The United States and European Union condemned the hanging, criticising Iran for denying Bahrami access to Dutch consular officials and urged Tehran to guarantee the rights of citizens.

"I call on Iran to halt all pending executions immediately and to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty," EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.

Rights groups say Iran is second only to China in the number of people it executes, and is first in terms of per capita executions. The western-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran calculated Iran had executed an average of one person every eight hours since the start of the year.

Mehanparast addressed the "claims some countries have regarding the number of executions in Iran", saying more than 80 percent of executions were linked to drug smuggling and Tehran was doing the world a service in taking such a firm stance.

"If the Islamic Republic of Iran is not going to fight narcotics smuggling, definitely other countries, western, European countries will be harmed," he said. "We are trying so that other countries will not be hurt."

A Dutch television show, citing documentation, reported on Monday that Bahrami was convicted in the Netherlands in 2003 for smuggling 16 kg of cocaine from the Caribbean.

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has come under pressure over the issue, delaying a trip to Turkey on Tuesday to answer questions in parliament from the anti-Islam Freedom Party over why he did not expel the Iranian ambassador.

Detentions of Western citizens have further soured relations between Iran and Western nations strained by a dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme which it says is peaceful but many countries fear has military ends.

On Monday, a court summoned American Sarah Shourd, 32, to return to Iran to stand trial for spying along with two other U.S. citizens who have been in custody since July 2009 when all three were arrested near the border with Iraq.

(Writing by Robin Pomeroy in Tehran and Aaron Gray-Block in Amsterdam; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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