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Iran Delays Execution Of Child Offender

(RFE/RL) July 18, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Authorities in Iran have delayed at the last minute the execution of a child offender, Sina Paymard, to allow his family to try and raise the compensation money demanded by the relatives of the man he stabbed to death.

It is the second time Paymard has been reprieved when about to walk to the gallows.

The case highlights what the rights group Amnesty International calls the abhorrent policy of executing child offenders.

Amnesty International says that 18-year-old Paymard, who was sentenced to hang for a crime committed when he was 16 years old, was scheduled to be executed on July 17.

But Iran's ISNA news agency today quotes Sina's lawyer, Nasrin Sotudeh, as saying the execution has been briefly delayed to allow the family to raise the $160,000 compensation demanded by the relatives of the dead man in lieu of execution.

"Following an order by judiciary officials, the sentence has been halted for 10 days," Sotudeh told Radio Farda today. "In fact, it can be carried out in 10 days; if [the compensation] is not collected, he will be executed. We will do our best and we hope to be able to collect the sum within 10 days."

The Crime And The Punishment

Sina stands convicted of stabbing to death a drugs dealer in a Tehran park. The young musician's lawyer says her client is a drug addict with a history of psychological problems.

According to Amnesty International, Sina was nearly executed in September (2006). On the gallows, Sina's last request was to play the "ney," a Middle Eastern flute, for the last time.

The family of the victim was so moved by his playing that they granted him a last minute reprieve. Instead, they asked for some $160,000 as compensation. Sina's family, however, was not able to raise the full amount at that time.

Policy Questioned

Apart from the great psychological pressure imposed on Sina and his family by the on-off conduct of the case, there is concern about Iran's policy of executing child offenders. A spokesman for Amnesty International, Drewery Dyke, condemned the Iranian policy.

"Should this execution be carried out it would be in complete violation of international law," Dyke said. "It would also be a morally unjustifiable, abhorrent act carried out by a government against one of its young citizens. We are calling on the Iranian government to take immediate steps to halt this execution."

Amnesty's Dyke said the right of the Iranian authorities to punish criminals is not at issue.

"Amnesty International recognizes the right of governments to bring to justice those convicted of serious crimes -- they have a duty to do that," Dyke said. "But we do oppose the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate form of inhuman, cruel, and degrading punishment."

International Obligation

Dyke noted that as a state party to the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has committed itself not to execute those wo have committed crimes under the age of 18.

Iran continues to have one of the highest rates of executions in the world. Amnesty says it has recorded at least 124 executions since the beginning of 2007, suggesting that by the end of this year the number could exceed the total of 177 executions that it recorded in 2006.

Two Iranian child offenders, whose crimes were committed before the age of 18, were put to death recently. Mohammad Mousavi and Sa'id Qanbar Zahi were executed in April and May, respectively.

An Iranian man was this month stoned to death for adultery, and there are fears that his condemned partner and mother of their two children might face a similar fate. The punishment was described as barbaric by the United Nations, Western governments, and human rights groups.

(Radio Farda with wire reports)