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Iran halts execution following international pressure

21-year-old was to be killed for alleged sodomy 'crime' committed when he was 13

The Iranian chief justice yesterday halted the execution of a 21-year-old Iranian citizen, following international pressure from human rights groups and queer activists.

“We hope that Makvan’s case and the profound rejection of the death penalty by the Iranian Chief Justice sets the course for the future in Iran,” says Paula Ettelbrick, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

According to Human Rights Watch, three men complained to police in Sep 2006 that Makvan Mouloodzadeh had raped them seven years earlier. Mouloodzadeh was arrested and in May 2007, he was sentenced to death on charges of raping three boys when he was 13 years old. He claims he was physically assaulted in prison, and forced to confess a crime he says he never committed.

Iran’s chief justice says the death sentence was in violation of Islamic teachings and the law, according to the ILGHRC.

Early November, human rights activists ramped up a campaign to halt the execution, including pressure from Amnesty International, Outrage and the ILGHRC. These groups encouraged people to email and send letters to Iranian authorities.

“This is a stunning victory for human rights and a reminder of the power of global protest,” says Ettelbrick of the ILGHRC.

Arsham Parsi of the Iranian Queer Organization, based in Toronto, says international pressure needs to continue.

He mentions a recent case of an Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning. The chief justice ordered the stoning to stop, but the local authorities claim they did not receive the message. Parsi says the stoning continued, despite the higher authority’s orders not to do so.