Iran hangs three drug smugglers in public: media

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran hanged three convicted drug smugglers in the central city of Qom on Sunday, Iranian media said, in the latest public execution in the Islamic state.

European countries and Western rights groups have criticized a growing number of executions this year in Iran, which Amnesty International says has one of the highest rates of capital punishment in the world.

Iran says it is prosecuting criminals under its Islamic sharia law and rejects criticism of its human rights record, accusing Western countries of double standards.

Iran is a transit route for drugs smuggled from Afghanistan to the West and elsewhere. Iranian forces often clash with well-armed smugglers of drugs and other contraband.

“Police in Qom are firmly following its anti-narcotics program by acting against trafficking networks,” provincial police commander Rahim Khorshidvand was quoted as saying by the Mehr News Agency.

“The Qom prosecutor supports our efforts by issuing heavy punitive verdicts against those criminals,” he said.

The number of executions in Iran, many in public, has risen since July with the launch of a crackdown on “immoral” behavior. Police say they have arrested many murderers, rapists and drug traffickers.

Murder, rape, adultery, armed robbery, apostasy and drug smuggling are all punishable by death under Iran’s sharia law, imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Five drug dealers were hanged in the city of Birjand on November 20.

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