[JURIST] Iranian officials on Sunday hanged 29 people in the capital Tehran as part of what the government says was a push to enforce Islamic moral codes. Government sources and local media presented conflicting reports [Reuters report] regarding what crimes those executed had committed, but offenses ranging from adultery to murder qualify for the punishment under the country's use of Sharia [BBC backgrounder] penal rules. Human rights groups suggested that Iran intended the mass execution to challenge international criticism [JURIST report] of its death penalty policies. Before Sunday, Iran had reportedly hanged 20 people this year, and human rights groups said that the country executed over 300 people in 2007. Last week, an additional nine people were sentenced to death by stoning [BBC report] for adultery and sexual offenses, despite a moratorium on the practice imposed by the head of the Iranian judiciary in 2002. The Times has more.
International rights advocates increased pressure on Iran following the stoning execution of a man convicted of adultery in July 2007. Iran quickly announced an investigation into the judge [JURIST report] who ordered the execution. In January, Amnesty International [advocacy website] called on Iran to abolish executions by stoning [press release]. Last April, an Amnesty report [text; JURIST report] named Iran as having one of the three highest execution rates in the world, along with China and Pakistan. Most executions in the country are carried out by hanging and are related to traditional capital crimes including murder and rape, although an Iranian airport customs officer was executed for corruption [JURIST report] in January.