3 May 2009

Iran criticised for woman's execution

2:45 pm on 3 May 2009

The European Union and human rights groups have protested against the execution of a young Iranian woman for a murder committed when she was 17.

Delara Darabi, convicted of murdering her father's cousin, was executed on Friday.

The daily Etemad newspaper said the 23-year-old had been in jail for five years and had initially confessed to the murder because she believed she would be pardoned as the crime was committed when she was a minor.

The Czech presidency of the European Union strongly condemned the execution of Ms Darabi and urged Iran to "avoid juvenile executions".

"Such human rights violations erode the ground for understanding and mutual trust between Iran and the European Union," the presidency said in a statement.

"Amnesty International is outraged at the execution of Delara Darabi, and particularly at the news that her lawyer was not informed about the execution," Amnesty said on its website.

Human rights groups have criticised Iran for sentencing minors to death. Iran says it only carries out the death penalty when a prisoner reaches the age of 18.

Iran has executed at least 42 juvenile criminals since 1990, including seven in 2007, according to the groups which say Saudi Arabia and Yemen are the only two other countries to do so.

Under Iran's sharia law, murder, rape, adultery, armed robbery, drug trafficking and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Rights groups had praised Iran when it seemed to have ended the practice in October 2007. But a judiciary official later clarified Iran's position, saying juvenile offenders could still face execution for murder but not for other capital crimes.