Page last updated at 13:24 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 14:24 UK

Iran 'to stop executing youths'

By Jon Leyne
BBC News, Tehran

Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, shortly before their execution in 2005
The execution of juveniles is banned under an international convention

Human rights campaigners have welcomed an announcement by Iran that appears to end the execution of juveniles.

Iran is believed to be the country that executes the largest number of juvenile offenders - defined as those aged under 18 - in the world.

At least six youths have been executed in Iran this year alone.

The development came in the form of a directive announced by Iran's deputy prosecutor general, Hossein Zebhi, broadcast by the state news agency.

He said that judges had been instructed to no longer impose the death penalty on juveniles.

But it is not clear yet precisely what legal force it has or whether a new law must go through parliament.

A lawyer who represents 25 juveniles under threat of execution said he had heard no word yet of the new directive.

Blood money

Some of his clients have been on death row for years, as negotiations continue over whether victims' families will accept blood money - cash to avoid execution.

Iran is one of last remaining countries in the world that imposes the death penalty on juveniles aged under 18 at the time of the crime.

Human Rights campaigners say the practice is explicitly banned by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed and ratified.

In a statement, London-based human rights group Amnesty International said it welcomed the announcement.

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