World News

Iran hangs 12 drug traffickers and kidnappers

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has executed eight convicted drug smugglers and four kidnappers in the past week, state media reported on Saturday.

The country is frequently criticized by human rights groups for maintaining one of the highest execution rates in the world.

The drug smugglers were executed in the central city of Qom. Mostafa Barzegar Ganji, a judiciary official from the city, told the official Irna news agency 16 other narcotics traffickers were also awaiting hanging there.

“They will soon be hanged if the authorities do not forgive them,” he said.

The kidnappers were put to death on Saturday in Zahedan prison in the volatile border province of Sistan-Baluchestan, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

“These people had kidnapped innocent citizens a number of times, and after receiving money from their families they still killed some of their victims,” Fars quoted provincial prosecutor Ebrahim Hamidi as saying.

Iran is a key transit route for narcotics smuggled from neighboring Afghanistan, which produces more than 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium. More than 3,500 Iranian security personnel have been killed fighting drug smugglers since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and apostasy -- the renouncing of Islam -- are all punishable by death under Iran’s Islamic law practiced since the revolution.