TEHRAN, July 27 – Iran on Sunday hanged 29 men convicted of offences including drug trafficking, murder and rape in the largest mass execution in years as the country says it is fighting increasing crime.
The hangings were carried out inside the notorious Tehran’s Evin prison at 5:10 am (0040 GMT), the state broadcaster said.
The latest hangings bring to at least 155 the number of executions in Iran this year, according to an AFP count.
Amnesty International reported that in 2007 Iran applied the death penalty more often than any other country apart from China, executing 317 people.
Those executed on Sunday had records of repeated crimes including rape, murder with torture and armed robbery, the report said. It also listed charges including drug trafficking, drinking alcohol and possessing ammunition.
Capital offences in the Islamic republic include murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery.
Human rights groups have accused Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty, but Tehran insists it is an effective deterrent carried out only after an exhaustive judicial process.
The state broadcaster said the latest death sentences were approved by the Tehran revolutionary court and high judicial authorities.
On Saturday the press reported that 30 people would be executed on Sunday, saying 20 were drug traffickers and the rest were "murderer thugs."
In a previous mass execution on January 2, 13 people were hanged, including a mother of two young children found guilty of murdering her husband.
A year ago, citing "promotion of social security," the authorities launched an unprecedented crackdown against women and thugs whose behaviour was deemed to offend the county’s strict Islamic moral code.
Iran hopes that executing drug dealers and thugs will send a strong warning to criminals.
"We have demonstrated our serious determination to combat organised, international and group crimes which disturb order and the security of our citizens," Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi told the state broadcaster.
"We believe that executing these thugs reflects the Islamic republic’s will to confront such crimes."
Sunday’s hangings took place behind the walls of Evin prison, and public executions are now subject to the approval of Iran’s judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi.
In January he issued a decree that public hangings should be "based on social necessities."
Earlier this month parliament was reported to be considering a bill which could see the death penalty also being imposed on those deemed to promote corruption, prostitution and apostasy on the Internet.
Tehran has also come under pressure from rights groups for hanging criminals who were under the age of 18 at the time of their offences, in defiance of its obligations under international agreements.
Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child which prohibit executing minors who were under 18 when they committed their offences.
The rights group run by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has slammed the rising number of executions, and last week another group, the Volunteer Lawyers’ Network, said Iran planned to stone eight women and a man sentenced to die for adultery.
Under Iran’s Islamic law, adultery is still theoretically punishable by stoning. In the case of a man, this involves the public hurling stones at him as he is buried up to his waist. A woman is buried up to her shoulders.
A 2002 directive by Shahrudi imposed a moratorium on such executions, but in July last year Iran sparked international outrage by stoning a man convicted of adultery.