December 17, 2007 / 4:08 PM / 12 years ago

European Parliament urges Iran to release students

BRUSSELS, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Iran should release students arrested for planning a protest, the president of the European Parliament said on Monday. A statement from Hans-Gert Poettering also condemned the execution of a man found guilty of a crime supposedly committed when he was 13.

Poettering said a European Parliament delegation visited Tehran last week and received a list of 28 arrested students from their families.

"The European Parliament strongly supports the call for their immediate release and urges the Iranian authorities to swiftly provide adequate information to their families and lawyers about their case," Poettering said in a statement.

The whereabouts of the students arrested for planning a demonstration on Iranian students’ day on Dec. 7 was unknown, he said.

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said on Dec. 8 it had detained several people who were planning an "illegal gathering" at Tehran University.

Student protests have been relatively rare in recent years in Iran, which is embroiled in a nuclear row with the United States and is often criticised by Western rights groups for cracking down on dissent.

But last month students gathered at Tehran University to protest against the detention of three fellow students during a small demonstration at another Iranian university a week earlier.

Liberal-minded students and academics have criticised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for clamping down campus protests. The president and his government say they support free speech and welcome constructive opposition.

Poettering’s statement said the European Parliament also condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the Dec. 4 execution of Makwan Mouloudzadeh.

It said the execution ran contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party, as well as to assurances given to EU institutions by Iranian authorities.

Iran hanged 20-year-old Mouloudzadeh, who was convicted of raping three boys when he was 13, despite retractions from his accusers and an order for a judicial review of his case, a Western rights group and an Iranian daily said.

Murder, rape, adultery, armed robbery, apostasy and drug smuggling are all punishable by death under Iran’s sharia or Islamic law, imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Editing by Matthew Jones)

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