Iran Human RightsIran steps up executions amid political turmoil, Amnesty says

Iran steps up executions amid political turmoil, Amnesty says

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ImageBloomberg: Iran executed more people last year than any other country except China, according to a report by Amnesty International. By Ali Sheikholeslami

ImageMarch 30 (Bloomberg) — Iran executed more people last year than any other country except China, according to a report by Amnesty International.

The Islamic Republic accounted for 388 of at least 714 executions worldwide, excluding China, Amnesty said in its Death Sentences and Executions 2009 report published today. China, which doesn’t release figures, executed thousands of people, the report said.

The number of executions increased from a minimum of 672, excluding China, the year before as Iran stepped up political repression, Amnesty said. Almost a third of those killed in Iran were executed between the June 12 election and the Aug. 5 inauguration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a second term.

“To us that’s a way of sending a political message of ‘we will not tolerate any form of dissent’,” Claudio Cordone, interim secretary general of Amnesty International, said by phone.

Ahmadinejad’s re-election drew large numbers of protesters to the streets in the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. Some individuals were accused of “enmity against God,” a charge that may cover membership of opposition groups, Cordone said.

“Many of those executed were convicted in flawed legal proceedings, some after having made televised confessions,” according to the report.

Iraq, U.S.

Worldwide, almost two-thirds of countries have abolished capital punishment, while 58 retained it in 2009, Amnesty said.

Iraq executed at least 120 last year, while Saudi Arabia, publicly beheaded 69 people. The U.S. was the only country in the Americas to carry out executions. It killed 52 and sentenced at least 105 individuals to death, the report said.

This year Amnesty has not published numbers for China. Previous estimates for China were “flawed” and “understated the reality,” according to Cordone.

“The information on the statistics, the offences for which the death penalty has been imposed, how many people have been sentenced to death or executed remains a state secret,” Cordone said.

Those charged with corruption, drug trafficking and rioting in the province of Xinjiang Uighur got death sentences.

Cordone called on President Barack Obama to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. New Mexico became the 15th state to ban capital punishment last year, he said.

“Even though we can’t predict when it’s going to be, and it will take a long struggle, the trend toward abolition continues and we’re confident that we’ll get rid of the death penalty like we eventually got rid of slavery and apartheid,” Cordone said.

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