Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Savage Iran

(But I'm not saying invade them.) Story here.

Iran bans public executions amid death sentence boom

Iran's judiciary chief moved to curb the increasingly common spectacle of public executions yesterday by banning the practice, except in cases approved by him. Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a moderate conservative cleric tipped by some as a future potential supreme leader, said the death penalty should be carried out behind closed doors, and barred the publication of television footage or photographs of executions. . . .

While executions will likely continue behind closed doors, the order was interpreted as an effort to ensure that capital punishment takes place beyond the scrutiny of the outside world. It follows a dramatic rise in public hangings, coinciding with a general increase in the use of the death penalty. Around 300 executions were carried out last year, compared with less than 200 the previous year.

Sixty men convicted of a range of capital offences, including murder, rape and drug trafficking have been hanged from cranes in public since last July, in scenes usually witnessed by large crowds. Several executions have been screened on state television, including one on Monday of two men convicted of raping and murdering several women in the central city of Arak. Armed robbery, apostasy, drug trafficking and homosexuality are also punishable by death in the Islamic republic. . . .

Human rights groups say Iran carries out more executions than any other country, apart from China. Its use of the death penalty has been criticised by the EU. . . .

The cleric was behind moves two years ago to open the doors to Iran's notorious Evin prison to international media. And in 2004, he ordered a ban on the use of torture in obtaining confessions - a decision widely seen as the first public acknowledgment of the practice of torture in Iran.

(Emphasis added.)

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