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Tehran changes law on drug trafficking, sparing thousands sentenced to death

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Teheran (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Thousands of Iranian citizens, on death row for drug-related crimes, could be spared and see their sentences commuted, in the context of a general softening of the laws on drug trafficking. Recently, the head of the judiciary stressed that all cases of death sentences imposed so far will be reviewed.

According to official sources, the decision will have retroactive effect and could involve up to 5 thousand prisoners, now held on death row waiting to be executed.

Iran sends hundreds of people to the gallows each year, most of them for crimes related to drug trafficking. In August, the Parliament raised the minimum quantity of drug possession to invoke capital punishment.

Previously, possession of at least 30 grams of cocaine was sufficient to end up in the hands of the executioner. Today the level has been raised up to 2 kg. The quantity of opium and marijuana has increased 10-fold to 50 kg.

The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, confirms that most of the death sentences will be commuted to prison detention. A decision immediately welcomed by activists and NGOs for human rights, as underlined by Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam of Iran Human Rights (IHR). “If applied appropriately – reports the activist to the BBC – this change to the law will be one of the most significant steps towards reducing the use of the death penalty all over the world”.

At the same time, he hopes for a quick application of the law, to save as many people as possible who are still awaiting execution. “Given that most of those convicted of drug-related offenses come from the most marginalized sections of the population – he adds – they often have no resources to appeal and obtain a change in their sentence”.

According to a recent statistic there would be at least about 5 thousand people on death row for drugs in the prisons of the Islamic Republic. Of these, at least 90% are aged between 20 and 30 years.

A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, would have admitted the killing of nearly 10 thousand people from 1988 to today for drug trafficking and drug use. Already in 2016 the Iranian Minister of Justice announced the search for “effective punishment” alternative to capital punishment. On the occasion, Mostafa Pourmohammadi added that the number of executions and the use of the executioner should be reviewed only in cases of “serious corruption”.

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