(photo credit: Courtesy)
LONDON - Two child offenders in Iran received a reprieve just hours before they were to be executed it was reported on Wednesday.
Behnoud Shojaee, and Mohammad Feda'i, now 21, were both granted a one-month reprieve from execution on Tuesday by Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, head of Iran's Judiciary. They had been accused of premeditated murder in separate cases and sentenced to 'qesas', or retribution, for which the penalty is death - though both claimed they had not intend to kill. They had already been moved to solitary cells prior to the scheduled execution.
In response to the late reprieves, Amnesty International called for this action to be the first step toward putting an end to "the obscene practice" of juvenile executions in Iran.
At least eight other executions are set to go ahead according to Amnesty. The basis for their conviction is unknown. The human rights organization said it is also concerned about reports that Saeed Jazee, another child offender, now aged 21, faces execution on June 25.
"We call on Iran to end, once and for all, such executions, including those of at least 85 other juvenile offenders on death row," an Amnesty spokesperson said. "These juveniles should not have been sentenced to death in the first place when Iran has given its word by signing international treaties banning executions of children."
Last year at least 335 people were executed in Iran, including seven child offenders, the second highest figure anywhere in the world.
Amnesty said it has longstanding concerns with Iranian trial procedures that fall short of international standards. In a recent letter from Feda'i, he wrote that while in detention, officials kicked and tortured him to the point that one night he agreed to sign a confession without knowledge of its content.
"I am a 21 year old, a young man, who was only 16 when he entered prison. Like any other teenager, [I was] still living my childhood dreams," Feda'i said. "I was beaten and flogged repeatedly...they hanged me from the ceiling [and] left me with no hope of living."
Amnesty encouraged Iran to join the rest of the world in reducing the use of the death penalty.
"We call on Iran's leaders, its judiciary and its new parliamentarians to ensure that Iran joins the global trend away from the use of the death penalty, powerfully expressed in the UN General Assembly's resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions on 18 December 2007," Amnesty said.
Since 1990 Iran has executed at least 30 juvenile offenders, seven of them in 2007 and at least one in 2008.