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Iran carries out rare execution for corruption

MYT 6:30:58 PM

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has executed a customs contractor for corruption and three customs employees have also been sentenced to death, the judiciary said on Tuesday, a rare use of capital punishment for economic crimes in the country.

Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said he did not know whether it was the first time an execution for such crimes was carried out in the Islamic Republic, whose leaders have vowed to root out graft.

It was the latest sign of Iran getting increasingly tough on corruption in the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

Jamshidi told reporters that three customs employees at Tehran's Mehrabad airport and one contractor were sentenced to death for "office corruption and other economic crimes" but did not give details.

"The execution sentence for one of them has been carried out," he said, adding the three others had appealed for their sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment and that this was being studied by the judiciary authorities.

"The main thing in their case was receiving a bribe of more than 10 billion rials (about $1.07 million)," Jamshidi said, without specifying if this was the total amount or for each individual.

He said that "disrupting the foreign exchange, monetary or banking system" was punishable by death under Iranian law.

Death sentences are usually carried out by hanging in Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 vowing to clamp down on corruption. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has previously also ordered a crackdown on graft.

Earlier this month, the judiciary said an Iranian court sentenced three state gas company managers to 10 years in jail and 74 lashes each for taking bribes totalling 23 billion rials.

In December, four former officials, including one who held a key Oil Ministry position and an ex-customs director, were jailed for up to five years for taking bribes and embezzlement.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's Sharia law, practised since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

The number of executions for such crimes has increased since July, when police began a crackdown on "immoral behaviour". Rights group Amnesty International says Iran has one of the highest rates of executions in the world.

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