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Presidency condemns Iran executions

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12:31 CEST+02:00
Following a series of EU criticisms regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions and human rights practices, the Swedish EU presidency has spoken out against Iran's recent execution of 24 people by hanging.

The EU presidency said it "condemns the execution of 24 persons in the city of Karaj in Iran on 30 July 2009" in a statement on Thursday.

The Swedish presidency "is concerned about the continued large-scale use of the death penalty in Iran, including the repeated incidence of collective executions during the past month", the statement continued.

"The Presidency continues to call on the Iranian authorities to abolish the death penalty completely and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions," it added.

Last week Iran hanged 24 convicted drug traffickers in a prison in Karaj, according to a deputy Tehran prosecutor.

The latest hangings bring to at least 219 the number of people executed in the Islamic republic so far this year, according to an AFP count based on news reports.

They were the second such executions in about a month in the same prison, where the Iranian authorities hanged 20 drug traffickers on July 4.

In July last year, Iran hanged 29 people who had been convicted of various crimes, including murder, rape and drug trafficking. It was the largest mass execution in recent years.

In 2008, Iran executed 246 people, second only to China.

Tehran says the death penalty is a necessary tool for maintaining public security and is only applied after exhaustive judicial proceedings.

Murder, rape, armed robbery, drugs trafficking and adultery are all punishable by death in Iran.

In late July, senior European politicians raised concerns about human rights in Iran and repeated demands for the release of a French woman lecturer jailed on charges of espionage.

Sweden assumed the EU's rotating presidency from the Czech Republic last month.

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