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Iranian authorities must reveal fate of 11 men reportedly spared execution at weekend

*Shop worker Saeed Sedeghi among men whose fate is now unknown
*Iran believed to have executed at least 344 people since start of year

The fate and whereabouts of 11 men in Iran who were due to be put to death on Saturday must be disclosed by the Iranian authorities, Amnesty International has said, following reports that the executions did not take place.

Among those scheduled to be executed was Saeed Sedeghi, a shop worker who was sentenced to death in June by Iran’s Revolutionary Court after he was convicted of purchasing and possessing 512 kg of methamphetamine (“crystal meth”) along with three other men. The state-appointed lawyer who represented him at this trial had never met him nor had access to his case file before the trial started.

Like others sentenced to death under the Anti-Narcotics Law, he appears to have had no opportunity to appeal against his conviction and sentence, a violation of the right to a fair trial.

In addition to execution, the court fined Sedeghi two million rials (approximately £100) and sentenced him to 20 lashes for individual possession of 21 grams of opium and marijuana. He also told his family that he was tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention, where he had three teeth knocked out. In late July, he was brought before Branch 30 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court without the presence of his lawyer and made to sign a document apparently informing him that his death sentence was going to be carried out.

A member of Sedeghi’s family has told Amnesty that the authorities at Tehran’s Evin Prison informed her on Saturday that the executions did not did take place and that all 11 men were still alive. It is not clear if the executions were postponed or halted, or if the men are still being held at Evin. When Sedeghi’s family asked about his whereabouts, the prison authorities at both Evin and Ghezel Hesar prisons told them that he was not being held by them.

Meanwhile, Saeed Sedeghi’s brother Majid Sedeghi, who was himself arrested on 11 October, a day after giving interviews to BBC Persian and Voice of America about his brother’s plight, is currently being held at Evin Prison.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Ann Harrison said:

“The Iranian authorities must do much more than granting a further reprieve for Saeed Sedeghi whose execution - along with the other men’s - was apparently put on hold on Saturday.

“The death sentences of all 11 men must be overturned once and for all as a matter of urgency. The Iranian authorities must also end the distress these men’s families are currently suffering by clarifying their relatives’ current whereabouts and allowing the men to contact their families.

“The Iranian authorities must take immediate steps to end their ongoing killing spree and commute all death sentences. They must review legislation with a view to removing the death penalty as a possible punishment.

“Saeed Sedeghi and anyone else convicted after unfair trials must be afforded retrials in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards without recourse to the death penalty.”

As of 9 October, the Iranian authorities are believed to have executed at least 344 people since the start of the year, including 135 executions that have not been formally announced. The majority of those executed were convicted of drug trafficking. The vast majority of executions in Iran in recent years have been for drug-related offences, despite there being no clear evidence that the death penalty serves as an effective deterrent against such offences - Iran has one of the highest rates of drug addiction in world.

Amnesty is urging Iran to review its Anti-Narcotics law to ensure the death penalty is no longer considered as a possible punishment. International standards prohibit the use of the death penalty except for “crimes with an intention to kill which resulted in the loss of life”. The UN Human Rights Committee has on numerous occasions found that drug-related offences do not meet this criterion.

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