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Iranian police officers prepare a hanging rope.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that Iranian officials are trying to head off a looming economic crisis with threats of "new rights-abusing policies," including applying the death penalty for economic crimes.

"Executions, an inhumane and inherently irreversible punishment, are never the answer, and in this case can only distract from other causes of this economic turmoil," the New York-based rights watchdog said in an August 10 statement.

Iran has faced growing economic difficulties since the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers in May, fueling a crash in the value of the national currency, the rial.

The United States on August 7 reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy that were lifted under the nuclear deal in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program. A second round of penalties is due to come into effect in early November.

Meanwhile, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, as well as a number of hard-liner lawmakers and newspapers have called for executing people found responsible for contributing to the country's economic woes, which have triggered street protests in Tehran and other cities.

"Today, officials increasingly talk about the need to combat corruption at every level," HRW said. "Yet to do so requires an independent judiciary that ensures due process rights for all those accused."

The group added that the Iranian judiciary's "long record of violating detainees' rights and wanton application of the death penalty raises grave concerns."

Iran has sentenced to death and executed several people on "vague fraud charges with little transparency or due process," according to HRW.

It cited the case of Babak Zanjani, a wealthy businessman who is currently on death row on charges of withholding more than $2 billion in oil revenue channeled through his companies.

Iran is one of the world's leading executioners. Amnesty International said in April that 507 people were executed in the country last year, including at least five juvenile offenders.

Police wearing sashes hold placards during a ceremony to award those who the authorities say participated in "the crackdown of violence and terrorists activities" in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

A United Nations human rights panel says that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs in China are being held in "counterextremism centers," with millions more forced into reeducation camps, turning China's far-western Uyghur region into "something that resembles a massive internment camp."

Gay McDougall, vice chairwoman of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, on August 10 said that most of the detained Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in the western Xinjiang autonomous region have never been properly charged with a crime or tried in court.

"We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability [in China] has changed the [Uyghur] autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of 'no rights zone,'" she said.

The numbers McDougall gave appeared to come from the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Other rights groups have given lower figures.

China has said that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

Chinese delegation leader Yu Jianhua highlighted the economic progress he said Beijing has brought to the region.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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