Iran parliament softens drug death penalty laws

The majority of Iranian lawmakers voted Sunday to amend the law so that only drug kingpins, armed dealers and those convicted of smuggling more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of opium or two kilograms of heroin would face the death penalty. (File photo by REUTERS)
Updated 13 August 2017

Iran parliament softens drug death penalty laws

TEHRAN: Iran's parliament passed a long-awaited amendment to its drug trafficking laws on Sunday, raising the thresholds that can trigger capital punishment and potentially saving the lives of many on death row.
The bill must still be approved by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council but gained parliamentary approval after months of debate, according to parliament's website and the ISNA news agency.
According to rights group Amnesty International, Iran was one of the top five executioners in the world in 2016, with most of its hangings related to illicit drugs.
The watchdog noted sharp drops in the number of executions in Iran -- down 42 percent to at least 567 that year.
The new law raises the amounts that can trigger the death penalty from 30 grams to two kilos for the production and distribution of chemical substances such as heroin, cocaine and amphetamines.
For natural substances such as opium and marijuana, the levels have been raised from five to 50 kilos.
The amendment will apply retroactively, thus commuting the sentences for many of the 5,300 inmates currently on death row for drug trafficking.
It restricts the death penalty to criminals who lead drug-trafficking gangs, exploit minors below 18 years old in doing so, carry or draw firearms while committing drug-related crimes, or have a related previous conviction of the death penalty or a jail sentence of more than 15 years or life in prison.
Under the new bill, the punishment for those already convicted and given the death penalty or life in prison, other than those meeting the new execution requirements, will be commuted to up to 30 years in jail and a cash fine.
Defending the bill in a parliamentary debate last week, Hassan Norouzi, the spokesman of parliament's judicial and legal committee, said the costs for Iran's war on drugs have almost doubled since 2010.
He said more than 6 million people were involved in drugs in the country, 5.2 million of them addicts and 1.8 million users.
The amendment had faced opposition from police officials who believed that reducing or removing the death penalty would embolden criminals.
But many judges had welcomed the softened law -- and stayed execution sentences as they awaited the results of the parliamentary debate, Norouzi said.
Iran's neighbour Afghanistan produces some 90 percent of the world's opium, which is extracted from poppy resin and refined to make heroin.
The Islamic republic, a major transit point for Afghan-produced opiates heading to Europe and beyond, confiscates and destroys hundreds of tonnes of illicit narcotics every year.


US State Department sanctions top IRGC general for crackdown on protesters

Updated 52 min 57 sec ago

US State Department sanctions top IRGC general for crackdown on protesters

  • Hook praised the UK and its decision to classify Lebanon's Hezbollah as terrorist group
  • Hook also said that US sanctions were working

WASHINGTON: The US Department of State imposed sanctions on Friday on a leading Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps general following Iran’s crackdown on protesters, US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook said.

“The United States is listing IRGC Brig. Gen. Hassan Shavapor under Section 7031c, visa sanctions,” Hook told reporters.

“General Shavapor committed gross violations of human rights against protesters at the press briefing. He oversaw the massacre of 148 helpless Iranians in the Mashar region last November,” he said.

His press statement came after Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made comments about the day Tehran hit US bases in Iraq with missiles in response to the killing of the country’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani, calling it “a day of God.”

He also said that the killing of Soleimani was a “disgrace” to the American administration and that the attack showed the “terrorist nature” of Washington.

In response, Hook said: “The more Iran threatens the world, the more isolated it will become.”

Hook also said that US sanctions were working, citing Iran's president Hassan Rouhani admitting financial losses due to the sanctions and pointing toward Iran's "major banking crisis." 

He added: "We have succeeded in making the Iranian regime and whoever helps it pay a heavy price."

Also on Friday, Hook praised the UK and its decision to classify Lebanon's Hezbollah movement as a terrorist group.