TEHRAN, Iran Using strict enforcement of Islamic law, the judicial authorities in a restive region of southern Iran amputated the right hands and left feet of five convicted robbers this week, part of what the government said was an effort to deter other troublemakers.
An Iranian rights group led by Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, protested the double amputations, which it called an expansion of cruel punishments in Iran. The group also protested a spate of public executions reported over the past two weeks.
"Unfortunately, the violation of human rights in Iran has not only been expanded in some fields, it has also found new dimensions," Ebadi's group, which calls itself Defenders of Human Rights, said in a statement.
Iranian newspapers on Thursday reported the hanging of seven men convicted of murder and drug smuggling in different cities this week. In the first 10 days of January there have been 23 publicly disclosed executions.
Iran has been an active user of the death penalty, usually hanging, and is one of several countries that opposed its abolition last month during a vote at the U.N. General Assembly resolution, joining in an unusual alliance with the United States. Officials argued that the abolition of the death penalty would be an infringement on Iran's sovereignty.
Amputation has been a punishment in Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979 installed Islamic law, but Iran's judicial authorities have rarely publicized examples of its use and have rarely ordered double amputations. In the newly publicized instances, the courts ordered the right hand and left foot cut off, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the condemned to walk, even with a cane or crutches.
Iran Daily reported Thursday that two men, identified only by their first names, Mojtaba and Mohammad-Hossein, were hanged for murder on Wednesday in the southern city of Jahorm. Three others, according to the daily Jomhouri Eslami, were hanged in the eastern city of Birjand on Wednesday after being convicted of drug trafficking. The daily added that two others convicted of murder were hanged in the northern city of Tonekabon but did not specify when.
The authorities hanged another 13 people on Jan. 1 and three others after that.
According to a count by Agence France-Presse, based on reports in local newspapers, Iran hanged 298 people in 2007, compared with 177 hangings in 2006.
Among those reported executed on Jan. 1 was a 27-year-old woman and mother of two who killed her husband when she was 23.