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Iran Hangs 29 People At Dawn

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran hanged 29 people at dawn on Sunday after they had been convicted of murder, drug trafficking and other crimes, state run television reported.

All were hanged inside Evin prison, north of the capital. The hangings were carried out after the death sentences were ratified by Iran's Supreme Court, the television report said.

A separate report on the television station's web site quoted Tehran Chief Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi as saying the men had records of repeated crimes, including rape, armed robbery and murder. The web site also said some of the convicts had "smuggled thousands of kilograms of various kinds of narcotics" in and out of Iran.

The hangings brought to about 150 the number of people executed in Iran so far this year.

International human rights groups have accused Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty, but Iranian officials say capital punishment is an effective deterrent carried out only after all judicial proceedings are exhausted.

The Rome-based Hands Off Cain, which campaigns to stop the death penalty, said last week that at least 355 people were put to death in Iran last year, compared with 215 in 2006. The group said the actual figure may be even higher because Iran does not publish official statistics on the number of executions.

The 355 executions placed Iran second only to China as the world's biggest executioner.

The group said China alone accounted for at least 5,000 executions based on reports by the media and other human rights groups.

Iranian rights activists said earlier this month that authorities have sentenced eight women and one man convicted of adultery to death by stoning.