A planned stoning in Iran is drawing criticism from human-rights groups, deploring the use of what they are describing as an exceptionally cruel punishment in applying the death penalty. Human Rights Watch received reports that a court in Rasht, in northwest Iran, had upheld a sentence of death by stoning against Muhammad Navid Khamami. The punishment is usually applied to people who have committed what is described as moral offenses, such as adultery, and reports suggest the sentence will be carried out shortly. If carried out, it will be the second stoning in Iran since the beginning of 2009. The first case also took place in Rasht when a man was convicted of adultery and executed by stoning. Reports said the authorities refused to turn over his body to the family in order to cover up the circumstances of his death. Two men were also stoned to death last year in Mashhad, cases that were confirmed by the Iranians, HRW said. The organization rejects all forms of death sentences, but human-rights activists are particularly concerned about the use of stoning, which is meant to inflict pain and suffering on the person killed. Men are buried in the ground up to their waists and women up to their breasts, for the purposes of execution. "Stoning is a particularly cruel form of capital punishment that grossly offends the inherent dignity of all human beings," Human Rights Watch said. According to a recent report by Amnesty International, countries in the Middle East and North Africa had the second highest number of executions in 2008, lagging only behind Asia. In the Middle East, 508 people were executed by the state last year, the vast majority of them in Iran and Saudi Arabia. In Iran, the report said, stoning and hanging were among the cruel and inhumane methods used, with at least 346 people put to death by these methods, including eight juvenile offenders. Amnesty says Iran has an unfair judicial system, where the death penalty is often applied following unfair trials for non-violent offenses such as adultery, which would not be criminal in many other countries.