ALI AKBAR DAREINI
TEHRAN, Iran - Nobel Peace laureate Shirin
Ebadi on Saturday 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
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 has fallen
on deaf ears so far but I will not give up the fight," Ebadi told The Associated Press.
Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and
Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were
hanged publicly July 19 in the city of Mashhad on charges of raping younger
boys. They said before their executions that they were not aware that
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 told the AP.
But the lawyer said Iran's Supreme Court upheld the
verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections.
Gay rights groups, such as the London-based Outrage!,
and Iranian opposition groups suggested the rape allegations were
trumped-up charges aimed 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.
"Sweden has turned gay and lesbian
refugees back to Iran and they should know that these
people could be killed," he said.
Being gay or lesbian should be enough for refugees to remain in Sweden and not be returned to Iran, he added.
Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, has
campaigned to protect the rights of children and improve human rights in
Iran but has met stiff resistance from the judiciary, which is controlled
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
In 2003, a 16-year-old girl said to be suffering from a psychological
disorder was executed in Neka, a town in northern
Iran, on charges of having an illegal sexual
While there are no official figures on death sentences given to minors,
human rights activists say about a dozen were executed in Iran last year.