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Wed 27 Aug 2008 12:23 PM

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Iran hangs man for crime committed at age 15

Iran executes man, 18, for murdering a fellow teenager in streetfight three years ago.

Iran has hanged a man for a murder committed at the age of 15, a report said on Wednesday, the second execution in a week that violated international rights conventions.

Behnam Zaree, 18, was executed in prison in the southern city of Shiraz on Tuesday for murdering a fellow teenager identified only by his first name Mehrdad in a streetfight three years ago, the Etemad daily reported.

Zaree had told the court that he did not mean to kill Mehrdad and asked for his family's forgiveness, the paper said.

Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose signatories commit not to execute convicts who were under the age of 18 at the time of an offence.

But on August 19, Iran hanged Reza Hejazi, 20, in the central city of Isfahan for stabbing a man to death in a fight when he was 15.

The conservative judiciary maintains that minors are not executed in Iran, but 17-year-old Mohammad Hassanzadeh was hanged in the western city of Sanandaj in June.

The European Union and international human rights groups have sought to raise the age of legal responsibility in Iran's Islamic law, which deems a boy punishable from the age of 15 and a girl from the age of nine.

According to reports by the human rights group of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, at least nine people were executed for crimes they committed as minors in the past Iranian year to March 2008, and 73 such offenders remain on death row.

"Child rights advocates are very concerned about the current situation and our protests have got nowhere," Ebadi told AFP last week.

Rights activists often seek to stop such executions by negotiating with the victims' families, who under Iran's Islamic law have the right to pardon a murderer or ask for their execution.

The family can spare a murderer from execution by accepting blood money, leaving the convict to serve a prison sentence instead.

The latest hanging brings to at least 175 the number of executions in Iran this year, according to an AFP count.

According to Amnesty International, Iran applied the death penalty more than any other country apart from China last year, executing 317 people.

Capital offences in the Islamic republic include murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery.

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