http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i5icyrdwzgGViiWEuzWw6mP3s4zQTEHRAN (AFP) — Iran has ordered a stay of execution for two young convicts sentenced to death for crimes committed before they reached the age of 18, the student ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday.
Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi agreed a suspension of one month for Mohammad Fadaie and Behnoud Shojaie, who were found guilty of committing murders while legally minors at the age of 17, it said.
“On the order of Ayatollah Shahroudi, the two convicts were given a stay of one month to find an agreement with the victims’ families,” said Fakhreddine Jafarzadeh, an official at the prosecutors’ office.
The two were believed to have been among 11 convicts who local press reports say are due to be hanged at Tehran’s Evin prison on Wednesday morning.
Under Islamic sharia law, the family can spare a murderer from execution by accepting blood money for the victim’s life and leaving the convict to serve only a prison sentence.
The stays of execution came after the top UN human rights official asked Iran not to execute four offenders sentenced to death over crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said on Tuesday that Iran is party to international conventions which “prohibit the death penalty for juvenile offenders.”
Arbour “requested the Islamic Republic of Iran to stay the executions of these four juvenile offenders in strict compliance with its international human rights obligations,” a statement said.
Shojaie and Fadaie were among the four named by Arbour. The other two were Saeed Jaziie and Behnam Zareh. It was not clear if the judiciary’s response was linked to the UN call.
Jafarzadeh said Jaziie was not among the 11 convicts due to be hanged on Wednesday. ISNA said his execution is not due until June 25. He gave no information about Behnam Zareh.
Human rights activists have sought to raise the age of legal responsibility under Iran’s Islamic legal system, which deems a boy punishable from the age of 15 and a girl from the age of nine.
The European Union and international human rights groups have been pressuring Iran to stop executing those convicted of crimes they committed under the age of 18.
The judiciary maintains that minors are not executed in the Islamic republic. Rights groups have complained after several documented cases of convicts being hanged after reaching the age of 18.