25 July 2005 :Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi condemned the hanging of two teenagers accused of raping younger boys in north-eastern Iran, a punishment that also prompted protests by the international community and rights groups. The July 19 hangings of an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old on charges of involvement in homosexual acts violated Iran's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans such executions, Ebadi said. Ebadi said her Center for the Protection of Human Rights would intensify its fight against Iran's executions of minors.
"My calls for a law clearly banning execution of under-18s [have] fallen on deaf ears so far, but I will not give up the fight," Ebadi said.
Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were hanged publicly in the city of Mashhad on charges of raping younger boys. They said before their executions that they had not been aware that homosexual acts were punishable by death.
Asgari had been accused of raping a 13-year-old boy. His lawyer, Rohollah Razaz Zadeh, said Iranian courts were supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail.
"The judiciary has trampled its own laws," Razaz Zadeh said.
But the lawyer said Iran's Supreme Court upheld the verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections.
Gay-rights groups, such as the London-based Outrage!, and Iranian opposition groups suggested the rape allegations were trumped-up charges aimed to undermine public sympathy for the teenagers.
In Sweden, Foreign Ministry spokesman Per Saland said the government was "looking very seriously" at the hangings.
"We are against the death penalty, and we particularly react when it comes to the execution of minors, pregnant women and the mentally disabled," Saland said.
The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights posted a photo on its Web site showing hooded executioners tightening ropes around the suspects' necks.
The group's chairman, Soren Andersson, called on Sweden's government not to deport gay and lesbian asylum seekers back to Iran.
"Sweden has turned gay and lesbian refugees back to Iran, and they should know that these people could be killed," he said.
Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, had campaigned to protect the rights of children and improve human rights in Iran but had met resistance from the hard-line judiciary. The Iranian government in 2004 refused to permit Ebadi to stage a rally to protest children's executions.