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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 36
Iran hangs three men for 'sodomy'
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Iran hangs three men for 'sodomy'

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The government of Iran hanged three men on September 4 for the crime of having Gay sex. Three others were executed at the same time for other crimes.

Reports of the executions were originally published by the Iranian exile group, Iran Human Rights, on September 5.

They were confirmed the next day when the official ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency) ran a Farsi language story on the hangings.

The story was not reported on ISNA's English language website, but the Farsi version was reviewed by human rights activist Soheila Vahdati, who confirmed to LGBT Asylum News that the Iran Human Rights report was accurate.

Vahdati works with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Iranian Queer Organization (IRQO). The executions took place in the Iranian city of Ahwaz, near the Iraqi border.

According to the ISNA report, the three were convicted of 'forbidden acts against religion,' in violation of Articles 108 and 110 of Iran's penal code. The news report added that they were also guilty of kidnapping and theft.

According to Iran Human Rights, Article 108 defines sodomy as 'sexual intercourse between men.' Article 110 specifies that 'punishment for sodomy is killing; the sharia judge decides how to carry out the killing.'

Vahdati said the kidnapping and theft charges were unsubstantiated.

'From the text of the original news it is clear that the main 'crime' was sodomy and that they had been involved in kidnapping, etc., too,' she said.

'[But] no article of the Penal Code has been quoted for kidnapping. That is, chances are they would not be considered people deserving to be killed if they were not involved in [a] same-sex relationship.

'The main reason for killing the three people is obviously sodomy, though [the report says] they had committed other illegitimate activities like kidnapping and theft associated with harassment - but there is no explanation of the details of kidnapping and theft, which if it was true, must have made a lot of noise in town and there would have been a hint about it too.'

The men were identified only as MT, TT, and MCh. No age was given for any of them.

According to ISNA, the three others executed in Ahvaz were AH, convicted of selling heroin, and JN and ASh, convicted of rape and robbery.

Vahdati said that few details were given about their alleged crimes.

Noted Iranian human rights attorney Mohammed Mostafaei - now in exile in Norway - wrote an open letter to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad protesting the executions.

'Were the cases approved by the Supreme Court and given a hearing as well as permission for execution?' he asked. 'Were the three represented by lawyers, and what are their names?'

'Three men under the pretext of being 'Gay' and committing sodomy were sentenced to death and executed,' Mustafaei continued.

'Mr. President, you have blood on your hands.'

Iran Human Rights spokesperson Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam noted that Iranian authorities rarely admit to killing people only for being Gay.

'Yesterday's executions for sodomy might be among the rare cases were the Iranian authorities admit to having executed men convicted of homosexual acts,' he said.

'Iranian authorities normally present such cases as rape,' he added, 'but rape as not been mentioned in this case.'

Amiry-Moghaddam warned that a new wave of executions could materialize in Iran in the coming weeks.

'After a short break in the executions due to the Holy month of Ramadan, we have received reports about many scheduled executions in the coming days and weeks in Iran,' he said.

'Many of the scheduled executions are planned to be carried out publicly.'

According to AFP news agency, the latest hangings bring the number of executions reported in Iran so far this year to 180, based on media and official reports.

Iranian media reported 179 hangings last year but international human rights groups say the actual number was much higher, ranking Iran second only to China in the number of people it executed in 2010.

Iran has recently authorized a number of executions of Gay men, or ones thought to be Gay.

In January, an Iranian court handed down a stoning sentence against two teenagers in the city of Piranshahr, in Iranian Kurdistan. It was not clear whether they were charged with rape or sodomy.

Also in January, the official Iranian judiciary website reported that three men were hanged for allegedly raping a teenage boy.

In February, Amnesty International issued an action alert involving a teenage boy sentenced to death for sodomy in the city of Shiraz.

In a report released last December, 'We are a Buried Generation: Discrimination and Violence Against Sexual Minorities in Iran,' Human Rights Watch said that trials on moral charges in Iran are usually held in secret, making it difficult to determine what proportion of those charged and executed for same-sex conduct are Gay and whether the alleged offense was consensual.

Because of this lack of transparency, Human Rights Watch said that 'it cannot be ruled out that Iran is sentencing sexual minorities who engage in consensual same-sex relations to death under the guise that they have committed forcible sodomy or rape.'

The Human Rights Watch report also documents serious abuses, including due-process violations, that occurred during the prosecution of sexual minorities charged with crimes.

Those charged with engaging in consensual same-sex offenses stand little chance of getting a fair trial, the report says.

'Judges ignore penal code evidentiary guidelines in sodomy cases and often rely instead on confessions extracted through physical torture and extreme psychological pressure. Both Iranian and international law consider such evidence inadmissible.'

The Iranian government maintains that 'most of these individuals have been charged for forcible sodomy or rape.'

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