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Why Iran Quietly Abolished Death Penalty For Some Drug Crimes


Critics say the extensive use of the death penalty -- including frequent mass hangings that the public is encouraged to attend -- has done little to stop drug use and trafficking in Iran.

Iran has some of the toughest antidrug laws in the world, with authorities handing out the death sentence to offenders trafficking or possessing as little as 30 grams of hard drugs like heroin or cocaine.

So it was a major turnaround when the parliament and the Guardians Council, the powerful clerical body that must approve all proposed legislation, abolished the death penalty for some drug-related crimes.

The amendments to the law, which came into effect on November 14, increase the threshold for the use of the death penalty. Capital punishment is reserved for those charged with trafficking 2 kilograms of hard drugs or more than 50 kilograms of cannabis or opium. The death sentence still applies for repeat offenders and lethal drug-related offences.

The changes to the decades-old laws -- expected to curb the number of executions in the Islamic republic, which has one of the highest rates of capital punishment in the world -- have been driven by both international and domestic factors.

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