Iran halts teenager's execution

TEHRAN, July 18, 2007 (AFP) – Iran has halted the execution of a teenager who murdered a drug dealer when he was 16, giving his family 10 days to reach a settlement with the victim’s kin, his lawyer said Thursday.
 Sina Paymard, 19, was going to be hanged at dawn on Wednesday for murdering a 32-year-old man in a fight over drugs three years ago.
 ”(Judiciary chief) Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi halted the execution for 10 days so that we can reach a settlement with the victim’s family,” Paymard’s lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh told AFP.
 She said the family had to come up with the hefty sum of 1.5 billion rials (161,300 dollars) in blood money — compensation asked by the victim’s family — in order to save the boy from the gallows.
 ”They have raised half the blood money and some people have promised to make up for the rest,” Sotudeh said, without specifying who the donors were.
 The official blood money, cash paid out in the case of violent death, is set at 350 million rials (37,600 dollars) for a man, and half that for a woman.
 Under Iran’s Islamic law, anybody who kills another person has to pay compensation to the victim’s family who can refuse it and demand the murderer be executed.
 Paymard was to be hanged in September 2006, two weeks after he turned 18. But he asked as his last wish, to play his Iranian flute (ney) before the executioners put the rope round his neck. Touched by his playing, the victim’s family agreed to demand financial compensation instead of his death.
 Iran’s conservative judiciary maintains that minors are not executed in the Islamic republic, but in some cases murderers have been hanged after reaching the age of 18.
 In April, a man identified only as Mohammad was reportedly hanged in the southern city of Shiraz for murdering his friend when he was 16 years old.
 A human rights group headed by Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi said in a recent report that 15 people were sentenced to death in Iran in the past two years for crimes they committed as minors.