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Iran's government has ordered the courts to stop sentencing juvenile offenders to death, a decision that's being welcomed by human rights groups.

Assistant Attorney-General Hossein Zabhi made the announcement on October 15, stating that death sentences for offenders under 18 will be commuted to life in prison, and in some parole cases reduced to 15 years. The state news agency IRNA quoted Zabhi as saying that "in cases of good behavior and signs of rehabilitation, juvenile offenders may qualify for conditional release under Islamic compassions guidelines."

Amnesty International on October 17 welcomed the announcement, and expressed hope that it would pave the way for a complete ban on capital punishment in Iran. The group called on implement the decision immediately, calling it "long overdue."

According to Amnesty, Iran is the only country to have executed juvenile offenders in 2008, and has in fact hanged six such offenders this year when they reached the age of 18.

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