Two Iranians face death for use of alcohol


TWO IRANIANS have been sentenced to death under the country’s Islamic Sharia law for persistent consumption of alcohol.

Sharia forbids the use, manufacture or trade of all types of alcoholic drinks.

The two, who have not been named by the authorities, have each previously been lashed 160 times after twice being arrested for consuming alcohol. Being convicted for the third time makes them liable for the death penalty.

The head of the judiciary, Seyed Hasan Shariati, based in Iran’s northeastern province of Khorasan Razavi, told the semi-official Isna news agency the supreme court had upheld their death sentences and officials were preparing for their execution.

“Two people who committed the offence of consuming alcohol for the third time have been sentenced to be executed. The verdict has been confirmed by the supreme court and we are preparing to administer it,” he said.

Under Iranian Sharia law, certain crimes such as sodomy, rape, fornication, apostasy and consumption of alcohol for the third time are considered to be “claims of God” and therefore to have mandatory death sentences.

Sentences for such crimes, which are called Hodud in the Islamic terminology, are not at the discretion of the judge but are defined by Sharia law.

For some crimes, including theft and lesbianism, the death penalty is handed down if the convict is a reoffender who has already been punished three times for the same crime in the past. In the case of alcohol, the death penalty comes with the third offence.

Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer based in London, said a decision on whether such a punishment can be issued depends on the judge’s knowledge – a loophole which allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is presented.

Despite the ban, many people in Iran drink alcohol, usually a homemade liquor called araq, which contains 45 per cent pure ethanol.

Western alcohol is smuggled to Iran and can be found in underground markets, but can be costly.

People who belong to non-Muslim minorities recognised by the authorities, such as Armenians and other Christians, are allowed to produce and consume alcohol. – (Guardian service)