World News

Iran hangs eight men and gives three others reprieve

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran hanged eight convicted murderers and rapists on Wednesday, an Iranian news agency said, but three others were given a one-month reprieve following a U.N. appeal.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called on Iran on Tuesday to stay the execution of four men convicted of murders committed when they were under 18, including two of those whose hanging was postponed on Wednesday.

The semi-official Fars News Agency did not mention Arbour’s statement in its report but said the victims’ families had agreed that the executions of Behnoud Shojai, Mohammad Fadai and Davoud Mahdour be delayed.

Shojai’s execution was postponed last month, after the European Union urged Tehran to spare his life.

Under Iran’s Islamic law, sharia, the family of the victim can agree to pardon the murderer in exchange for “blood money,” or financial compensation, but it was not clear whether this may happen in the cases of Shojai and Fadai.

Amnesty International has said Shojai intervened to stop a fight between a friend and another boy, and stabbed the other boy with a shard of glass after being threatened with a knife. It says he was 17 at the time of the crime three years ago.

In her statement issued in Geneva, Arbour reminded Tehran that Iran had ratified international laws prohibiting imposing the death penalty for juvenile offenders.

It was not clear when the two other convicted murderers she mentioned were due to be put to death but their names were not among the ones Fars said were hanged on Wednesday.

Of those executed in Tehran’s Evin prison, five were convicted of murder and three of rape, Fars said.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran’s sharia law, practiced since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Amnesty listed in April the Islamic state as the world’s second most prolific executioner last year, with at least 317 people put to death, trailing only China which carried out 470 death sentences.

The London-based rights group says that Iran has executed at least 28 child offenders since 1990.

Iran rejects accusations it is violating human rights and accuses the West of double standards and hypocrisy.

Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jon Boyle