World News

Iran hangs nine for rape, robbery, other crimes

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Wednesday hanged nine men sentenced to death for rape, armed robbery and other crimes, most of them executed in public in front of a crowd of onlookers, state media reported.

It followed last month’s hanging of at least 16 convicted criminals in the Islamic state, which according to Amnesty International has one of the highest rates of executions in the world, and rising.

“Implementation of justice equals improving security,” read a banner on the gallows above five hanging bodies in the northeastern city of Mashhad, state television footage showed. It also showed the handcuffed convicts just before being hanged.

Two convicted criminals were executed in another location in Mashhad while two were put to death in a southeastern city.

Police have arrested dozens of drug addicts, smugglers, rapists and murderers during a summer crackdown on crime and “immoral behaviour”.

Tehran public prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi said last week 17 more criminals would be hanged soon. It was not clear whether they included those executed on Wednesday.

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

The number of executions doubled to at least 177 last year, according to Amnesty. Since the beginning of 2007, at least 124 people have been put to death. Western rights groups have called on Iran to abolish the death penalty.

Two men convicted for the 2005 killing of a judge are due to be hanged in public at the place of the shooting in northern Tehran on Thursday, the official IRNA news agency said. Such public executions are relatively rare in the capital.

In another case, Sina Paymard, an 18-year-old boy convicted of killing a drug dealer at the age of 16, was scheduled to be executed on July 17, but the sentence was postponed, giving the family more time to find the money.

The family raised 1.5 billion rials ($160,000) in a bid to stop his execution after one benefactor contributed more than half the required amount, the boy’s lawyer told Reuters.

But lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh added that the family of the victim, who initially said they would accept the sum in compensation to allow the sentence to be commuted, now wanted the execution to go ahead. A court will make the final ruling.

Under sharia law, relatives of the victim may pardon the murderer in return for “blood money.”

Amnesty has made an urgent appeal against the execution, saying that it would be violation of international law as Paymard was under 18 at the time of the crime.