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Iran Executes Juvenile Offender Despite EU Plea

Behnoud Shojaie killed another boy when he was 17
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran hanged a man on October 11 who was under 18 when he stabbed a boy to death, Iranian media reported, a month after the European Union urged the Islamic Republic to halt his execution.

Behnoud Shojaie was put to death after efforts to persuade the victim's family to pardon him failed, said senior Tehran judiciary official Fakhroddin Jaffarzadeh. His execution was postponed at least once last year and again in August.

Under Iran's Islamic law, the victim's family can spare the life of a convicted killer in exchange for financial compensation, so-called blood money.

"There were a lot of efforts put in to bring about reconciliation in this case, but they proved to be ineffective and Behnoud's retribution verdict was carried out this morning," Fars News Agency quoted Jaffarzadeh as saying.

Amnesty International has said Shojaie intervened to stop a fight between a friend and another boy, and stabbed the other boy with a shard of glass after being threatened with a knife. It says he was 17 at the time of the crime four years ago.

Amnesty has listed Iran as the world's second most prolific executioner in 2008 after China, and says it put to death at least 346 people last year.

Iran has executed at least 42 juvenile criminals since 1990, according to rights groups which say Saudi Arabia and Yemen are the only other countries to do so. Iran says it carries out the death penalty only when a prisoner reaches the age of 18.

Last month, the presidency of the 27-nation EU said it was "deeply concerned" by reports of the imminent executions of Shojaie and two other juvenile offenders, saying they would be a direct contravention of Iran's international commitments.

Condemning "the continued widespread occurrence of death sentences and executions" in Iran, the Swedish EU presidency urged it to halt the planned executions and consider alternative sentences for juvenile offenders.

Iranian officials reject accusations of human rights violations and accuse the West of double standards, stressing that under Islamic law it is only the family of the victim which can pardon the life of a murderer.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's Shari'a law, practised since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.