This from Reuters:
Iran hangs 21 criminals
By Fredrik Dahl
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran hanged 21 convicted drug smugglers and other criminals on Wednesday, Iranian media said, the latest of a series of executions that have been criticised by the European Union and Western rights groups.
The number of executions in Iran, many in public, has risen since July with the launch of a summer crackdown on "immoral behaviour". Police have arrested dozens of murderers, rapists and drug traffickers.
At least 56 people have been hanged since mid-July, according to a count based on Iranian media reports.
Amnesty International said it was "appalled" at the reports of the latest executions. Iran says it is prosecuting criminals under its Islamic sharia law and rejects criticism of its human rights record.
Seventeen drug smugglers were executed in the eastern province of Khorasan Razavi on Wednesday, the Web site of state broadcaster IRIB said. "They were hanged this morning after all legal procedures were carried out," a police spokesman said.
Four other offenders were put to death in public in the southern city of Shiraz after being convicted of banditry, smuggling and other crimes, the Fars News Agency said.
Murder, rape, adultery, armed robbery, apostasy and drug smuggling are all punishable by death under Iran's sharia law, imposed after the 1979 revolution.
Amnesty, which says Iran has one of the highest rates of executions in the world, said it had recorded 210 so far this year, including those reported on Wednesday, compared with 177 for all of 2006.
"Amnesty International continues to urge the Iranian authorities to order an immediate moratorium on executions," the London-based rights group said in a statement sent via e-mail to Reuters.
The EU said last month it was "deeply concerned about the series of collective public executions" in Iran.
The issue sparked a diplomatic row between Italy, which is leading a push for a global ban on the death penalty, and Iran, which accused Rome of meddling in its internal affairs.
It coincided with a deepening international standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions, which the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Tehran denies the charge.
In Shiraz, a big crowd watched Wednesday's hangings, Fars reported, adding that onlookers said executions should continue until "all criminal activities had ended" in the area.
A provincial justice department official said one criminal or smuggler had been executed each week in southerly Fars province since the start of the Iranian year on March 21. Shiraz is the capital of Fars province.
"This shows the efforts of the judiciary system in bringing about permanent social security and a serious confrontation with those people who are corrupt," Abdolnabi Najibi said.
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