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Rights Group Decries Iran's 'Execution Binge'

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian authorities have unleashed an "execution binge" with an average rate of one person hanged every eight hours since the beginning of the year, a rights group monitoring the Islamic Republic said Sunday.

"The Iranian Judiciary is on an execution binge orchestrated by the intelligence and security agencies," stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

A statement by the New York-based group said at least 47 prisoners have been hanged since Jan. 1, including a reported Kurdish activist accused of fighting against the state. It said other jailed Kurds also are at risk of facing the gallows for alleged links to a groups battling for greater rights for Iran's Kurdish minority.

Most of the others executed were convicted of violent crimes such as murder.

The group said the actual number of people put to death this year could be higher because Iranian authorities may not make public all executions.

Rights groups and media reports say at least 179 people were executed in Iran last year.

Thousands of inmates are on death row, but Iran's judiciary has come under intense international pressure over the case of a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Judiciary officials have said they are reviewing the sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, but there have been no clear signals on whether it could be commuted.

Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006 after the murder of her husband and sentenced to death by stoning. In the face of international outrage, the sentence has been suspended and is under study by Iran's Supreme Court.

She was later convicted of being an accessory to her husband's murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.