European Union Criticizes Iran for Executing Gay Teens
Advocate, July 27, 2005
The European Union on Tuesday condemned the public
hanging last week of two Iranian teenagers who, according to human rights
activists, were only 16 and 18, and it called on Tehran to cease such
executions. However, Iran’s top envoy to Belgium told foreign minister Karel
De Gucht that the two teens, who were hanged on July 19—Mahmoud Asgari and
Ayaz Marhoni—had been over 18 when they raped young boys.
Ebrahim Pour, Iran’s charge d’affaires in Brussels,
said Asgari and Marhoni were sentenced for kidnapping, rape, and homosexual
activities, the Belgian Foreign Ministry said. “The charge d’affaires
indicated that, according to information he had received from Tehran, the two
persons were over 18 at the time of the acts,” the ministry statement said
after De Gucht had called the Iranian envoy on the carpet.
In 2004, Iran told the EU it would not execute or flog
anyone under 18. The EU said Tuesday it hoped “a law abolishing such
punishments will be adopted soon” and urged Tehran to respect a moratorium
until then. “Capital punishment may not, in any circumstances, be imposed on
persons below 18 years of age at the time...of their crime,” the EU
statement said. Gay rights and Iranian opposition groups have suggested that
the rape charges against Asgari and Marhoni were meant to undermine public
sympathy for the two and noted that executing minors violates the
International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Under Iranian law, girls over the age of 9 and boys over
15 face execution if they commit certain crimes, such as murder and rape.
Capital punishment is also imposed, under certain conditions, for those
engaging in illegal sexual relations. While there are no official figures on
death sentences given to minors, human rights groups say about a dozen were
executed in Iran last year.
Iranian rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner
Shirin Ebadi said that as a result of the hangings, her Center for the
Protection of Human Rights would intensify its fight against Iran’s
executions of minors. De Gucht also questioned Pour about investigative
journalist Akbar Ganji, who was jailed in 2000 for reporting that intelligence
officials had murdered five dissidents. Pour said Ganji was now receiving
hospital treatment after several weeks on a hunger strike and must spend
another year in jail. The EU called for Ganji’s release on humanitarian
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