Iran's parliament has ended the death penalty for certain drug violations, raising the thresholds that can trigger capital punishment in a move that could prevent thousands from being executed.
The long-awaited amendment to drug trafficking laws was approved on August 13 after months of debate and must still be ratified by the powerful clerical body, the Guardians Council, and the president, according to the parliament's website and the ISNA news agency.
Under the new law, which would be applied retroactively, only drug kingpins, armed dealers, and those convicted of smuggling more than 50 kilograms of opium or 2 kilograms of heroin would face the death penalty.
Lesser violations would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Previously, the death penalty could be invoked for smuggling 20 kilograms of opium or 30 grams of heroin.
More than 5,000 convicted smugglers currently on death row may be spared from being executed if the new law is approved.
Iran is among the world's leading executioners, and has faced criticism from human rights groups.