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Sunday, July 24, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM
Iran's hanging of 2 teens draws condemnation
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran — Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi yesterday condemned the hanging of two teenagers accused of raping younger boys in northeastern Iran, a punishment that also prompted protests by the international community and rights groups.
Last week's hangings of an 18-year-old and 16-year-old on charges of involvement in homosexual acts violated Iran's obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans such executions, Ebadi said.
Ebadi said her Center for the Protection of Human Rights will intensify its fight against Iran's executions of minors.
"My calls for a law clearly banning execution of under-18s have fallen on deaf ears so far but I will not give up the fight," Ebadi said.
Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were hanged publicly July 19 in the city of Mashhad. They said they were not aware homosexual acts were punishable by death.
Asgari had been accused of raping a 13-year-old boy. His lawyer, Rohollah Razaz Zadeh, said Iranian courts are supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail.
"The judiciary has trampled its own laws," Razaz Zadeh said.
He said Iran's Supreme Court allowed the execution despite his objections.
Iranian opposition groups and gay-rights organizations such as the London-based Outrage! suggested the rape allegations were trumped up to undermine public sympathy for the teenagers.
In Sweden, Foreign Ministry spokesman Per Saland said the government was "looking very seriously" at the hangings.
"We are against the death penalty and we particularly react when it comes to the execution of minors, pregnant women and the mentally disabled," Saland said.
The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights posted a photo on its Web site showing hooded executioners tightening ropes around the suspects' necks. The group's chairman, Soren Andersson, called on Sweden's government not to deport gay and lesbian asylum seekers back to Iran.
Ebadi, who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, has campaigned to protect children and improve human rights in Iran but has met stiff resistance from the judiciary.
The Iranian government last year refused to give Ebadi permission to stage a rally to protest children's executions.
Under Iranian law, girls older than 9 and boys older than 15 face execution if they commit crimes such as murder and rape. Under certain conditions, capital punishment is imposed for those engaging in illegal sexual relations.
In 2003, a 16-year-old girl said to be suffering from a psychological disorder was executed on charges of having an illegal sexual relationship.
About a dozen minors were executed in Iran last year, according to human-rights activists.
Iran's Ebadi says jailed journalist in poor health
Sun Jul 24, 2005 5:27 AM ET
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian human rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi warned on Sunday that her client, jailed journalist Akbar Ganji, is in failing health and complained she had not been allowed to visit him.
Ganji, 46, an outspoken critic of the Islamic state's clerical leadership, jailed in 2001, was rushed to hospital last Sunday after a five-week hunger strike. His wife said on Friday that his health was deteriorating.
"I call on the judiciary and human rights groups to pay serious attention to my client's dangerous situation," Ebadi said in a statement faxed to Reuters.
"Ganji's wife says his hunger strike continues in the hospital. He has even lost weight since being hospitalised."
Ebadi also criticized Iran's judiciary for refusing to allow her to visit him.
"As Ganji's lawyer I have not been allowed to visit him in the hospital," said Ebadi. "This is unlawful."
There was no immediate official response to the statement.
Ganji's family and rights activists say he has lost more than 52 lb (24 kg) in weight during his 43-day hunger strike, which he says is a protest against his continued detention while suffering chronic asthma and back pain.
Senior judiciary officials have denied the investigative journalist is on hunger strike and said his admission to hospital last weekend was for knee surgery.
Ganji, a former hardline Revolutionary Guard turned radical reformer, was sentenced to six years in prison following a series of articles he wrote linking officials to the murder of political dissidents.
The European Union and the United States have both called for his release.
Iran's outgoing President Mohammad Khatami has urged that Ganji be paroled since he has just six months of his sentence left to complete.
Iran's judiciary has said it will not yield to international pressure to free Ganji, but a senior judiciary official said on Thursday that a pardon might be considered.
Iran has a dismal record on press freedom, closing more than 100 liberal publications and jailing several journalists in a concerted crackdown on reformist media since 2000.
Sweden must halt deportations to Iran after hangings: gay rights group - AFP