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Iran Among Top Three Death Penalty Countries -- New Persecutions

Using her legal right to pardon, the mother (R) of Abdolah Hosseinzadeh, murdered in 2007, removes the noose from the neck of Balal, her son's killer, moments before execution, April 15, 2014
Using her legal right to pardon, the mother (R) of Abdolah Hosseinzadeh, murdered in 2007, removes the noose from the neck of Balal, her son's killer, moments before execution, April 15, 2014

As human rights groups marked the World Day against Death Penalty on October 10, Amnesty International, AI, announced that China, Iran, and Iraq were the top three countries carrying out executions.

Courts in these countries have issued death sentences after unfair trials often based on confessions obtained through torture. Amnesty International also said, Iran is one of the few countries in the world that uses the death penalty to punish political opponents.

The organization does not have accurate information about the number of executions in China, however, it estimates that more than 567 people were executed in Iran in 2016.

"At least half of the death penalties in Iran are due to drug related offenses which are globally not considered serious crimes," Raha Bahreini from Amnesty International said in an interview with Radio Farda.

Currently, up to 5,000 mostly young people are on death row because of drug trafficking.

For many years, experts and lawmakers discuss the possibility of abolishing the death penalty for drug related offenses.

In August, parliament passed an amendment that would raise the threshold for imposing the death penalty in drug trafficking cases to 50 kg of opium, and 2 kg of heroin, morphine, cocaine, or their chemical derivatives. The amendment requires a second approval by the parliament and a final approval by the Guardian Council.

The council, controlled by ultra-conservative clerics has been responsible for some modifications of the original bill. After the modifications, the positive aspects of the bill have been weakened significantly, Tara Sepehrifar from Human Rights Watch told Radio Farda.

Iran also has been criticized by human rights organizations for executing minors. Based on their estimates, at least 90 young convicts are awaiting their death in Iranian prisons.

Continuing persecution of minorities and activists

The Islamic Republic continues the persecution of members of religious minorities and political and human rights activists. In recent years, several members of a Sufi order have received long prison sentences or sent to exile in a remote area.

Early this month, a revolutionary court in Shiraz convicted Mohammad Ali Shamshirzan, a member of a Gonabadi order, to life imprisonment for “waging war against God”.

Last week, a court in Tehran convicted 7 reformists, including the brother of former president Mohammad Khatami to up to 2 years in prison and a ban from political and journalistic activities due to “propaganda against the regime”.

They are all members of the banned reformist party, Participation Front who recently wrote an open letter to parliament criticizing the Revolutionary Guard for interfering in court cases related to political activists.

The members of Baha'i community are still treated harshly by security and judicial institutions in Iran. In recent days, Baha'i sources reported that 8 new members of their community had received jail sentences. They had been charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “promoting Baha'i faith”.

In an interview with Radio Farda, Simin Fahandej from Baha'i International Community condemned the sentences and said their only crime was that they were Baha'i and nothing else.

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    Mahtab Vahidi Rad

    Mahtab Vahidi Rad has been a Radio Farda journalist since 2010. She produces a weekly human rights magazine, Daricheh (Hatch), and also reports on social and minority issues. She can be reached at @MahtabVahidiRad on Twitter or at