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Report: Iran minors sentenced to death

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CAIRO, Egypt —  Iran has sentenced 177 people under the age of 18 to death over the past decade and has executed nearly three dozen of them, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran published on its Web site a list of the 114 minors who still remain in prison awaiting execution, some of whom are now older than 18. The youngest person on the list was a 12-year-old boy sentenced by a court in 2005. The group did not specify what crime he was convicted of.

Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the group in Vienna, Austria, said the campaign has called on the international community to take steps to press Iran to abolish the executions.

Rhodes said many of the death sentences were based on confessions obtained from defendants under torture or interrogations in which they had no access to a lawyer.

Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi told reporters in Tehran on Thursday that "there are no executions of individuals under the age of 18 in Iran."

But Jamshidi made a distinction between death sentences and Islamic law of "qisas," or eye-for-eye retribution for murder, which he said the judiciary does implement. He said in cases of qisas for those under 18 years old, "the main approach of the judiciary ... is based on peace and compromise." Under Islamic law, an attempt is made to reach a settlement with the family of a murder victim, but if no agreement is reached, the killer is executed.

The International Campaign, which is based in New York and Vienna, said the list was compiled by Iranian rights activist Emad Baghi, who is serving a one-year prison sentence in connection with articles he wrote critical of the country's rights record.

According to the list, Iran handed down 177 death sentences over the past decade to defendants under the age of 18, and 34 of those sentenced had been executed. Another 114 are pending, while the remainder have been pardoned, it said, adding that "due to the lack of transparency" in the Iranian justice system, some of the 114 may have already been executed.

Baghi, reached by The Associated Press at a prison hospital where he is being treated for a heart condition, said that he had compiled the list from "reports published in Iran" from 1998 to 2008.

The Campaign said in a statement sent to AP that Iran leads the world in executing minors and that two such executions are known to have been carried out so far in 2008, of Javad Shojai on Feb. 26 and Mohammad Hassanzadeh on June 10.

Hassanzadeh, born in 1992, was sentenced to death when he was only 15 years old, and was hanged in the town of Sanandaj when he was still under the age of 18. Shojaii was hanged for a crime he committed when he was 16 in 2005, the group said.

"These executions are tragic and they are barbaric," said Hadi Ghaemi, a Campaign spokesman.

While a few other countries still execute minors _ including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and Pakistan _ Iran has accounted for more than two-thirds of such executions in the past three years, Ghaemi said.

___

On the Net:

http://www.iranhumanrights.org

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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