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Iran: Hanging of man arrested as a teenager looms amid spike in juvenile executions

Iran: Hanging of man arrested as a teenager looms amid spike in juvenile executionsAmnesty - The Iranian authorities must immediately stop the execution of a man arrested for a crime committed while he was 17 years old, said Amnesty International, ahead of his scheduled execution on 11 February. Hamid Ahmadi's execution was initially scheduled for 4 February but his family were informed today that it has been postponed by a week.

Hamid Ahmadi was convicted, following an unfair trial marred by torture allegations, over the fatal stabbing of a young man during a fight between him and four others in Siahkal, Gilan Province in 2008. He was transferred to solitary confinement in Lakan prison in Rasht, northern Iran in preparation for his execution last Saturday, 28 January.

"Executing Hamid Ahmadi will consolidate a horrendous pattern that has seen Iran repeatedly flout international human rights law by sending people arrested as children to the gallows, often after deeply unfair trials," said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

Hamad Ahmadi's death sentence has been rife with mental anguish – this is the third time he was transferred to solitary confinement to await his death.

The last time his execution was scheduled, in May 2015, it was halted at the last minute after a public outcry. He was then granted a retrial based on new juvenile sentencing provisions in Iran's 2013 Islamic Penal Code allowing judges to replace the death penalty with an alternative punishment if they determine that the juvenile offender had not attained "mental maturity" at the time of the crime. However, he was sentenced to death for a second time in 2015.

Hamid Ahmadi was first sentenced to death in 2009 after an unfair trial in Gilan Province which was based on "confessions" he said were extracted through torture and other ill-treatment.

He has said that police officers held him for three days in a filthy, urine-stained cell; tied his hands and feet together and pushed him face down on the cell floor; tied him to a pole in the yard; kicked his genitals; and denied him food and water. One officer told him that he should not fear execution and should just "confess" to the stabbing so that the investigation would be concluded as soon as possible.

This execution would be yet another stain on the conscience of Iran and an utter betrayal of its own commitments to uphold children's rights.

The pain inflicted on him was so severe that he said he was willing to confess to anything to end it. The authorities are not known to have investigated his torture allegations.

Third execution this year of a man arrested as a child

Over the past month the Iranian authorities have executed two other young men arrested as children and scheduled a third which was halted at the last minute.

"Iran is one of very few countries that continue to execute juvenile offenders in flagrant violation of international human rights law, which prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were under the age of 18 when the crime was committed," said Philip Luther.

"Carrying out the third such execution in a month would be yet another stain on the conscience of Iran and an utter betrayal of its own commitments to uphold children's rights. Instead of displaying such appalling enthusiasm for use of the death penalty, the Iranian authorities should urgently halt Hamid Ahmadi's execution, commute his death sentence and order a fair retrial in line with international human rights standards."

Iran is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child but its outdated laws continue to allow the death penalty to be applied to girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15.

Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to urgently amend Article 91 of Iran's 2013 Islamic Penal Code to prohibit the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders, without any discretion for the courts or other exceptions. Pending this legislative change the head of the judiciary must establish an official moratorium on executions and ensure that the death sentences imposed on all people arrested as children are commuted without delay.

"Without these desperately needed measures, juvenile offenders will remain at risk of execution, even when they have been spared from the gallows at the last minute," said Philip Luther.