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Iran Hangs Nine For Murder

Rights groups name Iran as second only to China in number of executions
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has hanged nine convicted murderers, including a woman, in a Tehran prison, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Ten convicts were taken to the gallows in Tehran's Evin prison on the morning of December 24, Fars reported, but one was returned to his cell because the family of the victim were not present at the prison.

Under Iran's Islamic sharia law, a victim's relatives may pardon the murderer in return for financial compensation.

"Eight men and one woman were hanged after their death sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court," Fars reported. "One convicted man's hanging was delayed."

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under sharia law, practiced since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

European governments and Western rights groups have criticized Iran for the increasing number of hangings since authorities launched a clampdown on "immoral behavior" in July.

Amnesty International has listed the Islamic state as the world's second most prolific executioner in 2007, after China. It said in a report that Iran had executed at least 317 people last year, compared with at least 470 in China.

Iran rejects accusations it is violating human rights and accuses the West of double standards and hypocrisy.