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Sunday, 29 September, 2002, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Iran hangs rapists in public
Crowd at the hanging
Many of the crowd expressed approval of the hangings
Large crowds have attended public executions in the Iranian capital Tehran - a rare spectacle under reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Five men, nicknamed the Black Vultures, were hanged from cranes at two sites in the capital, watched by thousands of people.


I feel relieved when I see this, it's good for the men to see it too so that they stop harassing women

Woman in the crowd
The five had been convicted of vicious attacks on women across Tehran. A sixth man was given a 20-year prison sentence.

Correspondents say the men's crime spree attracted such notoriety that there were no last-minute appeals for clemency or protests by opponents of the death penalty.

Public executions have been criticised by reformists who say they damage Iran's image abroad and reflect badly on Islam, but conservative hardliners argue that they act as a deterrent.

At least 139 people were executed in Iran in 2001 - mostly out of public view - according to Amnesty International.

Forgiveness plea

Three of the five - Payam Amini, Amir Karbalai and Majid Qasemi - were hanged in the north-eastern Lavizan district.

Amir Karbalai (l) being led to execution
No-one appealed for clemency for the convicts
The other two - Amir Fakhri and Farhad Aqnarian - were executed at a bus station in the west of the city.

Friends of the convicts set off grenades in Lavizan causing a temporary disruption.

Payam Amini asked the crowds for forgiveness. He said: "We are guilty but we didn't kill anybody. We do not deserve to die, but I want everybody to forgive me."

Relief and applause

A young woman who had travelled 200 km to witness the execution explained why she had come.

Payam Amini
Payam Amini asked the crowd for forgiveness
"I feel relieved when I see this," she told Reuters news agency. "It's good for the men to see it too, so that they stop harassing women."

Many of the crowd applauded after the execution.

The five men were arrested in December 2001 after abducting, raping and robbing women in wealthy areas of Tehran.

Officials have not indicated how many women the gang attacked.

The country's Supreme Court upheld a lower court sentence last week, although the verdict was never announced publicly.

Public hangings are only carried out in Iran if a court decides that the convict's crimes are offensive to public sentiment.

See also:

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