TEHRAN - Iran on Saturday hanged an Afghan drug trafficker and four Iranians, three of them convicted of rape, local media reported. The 27-year-old Afghan from Herat, identified only by his initials MM, was sent to the gallows in the northern city of Damghan after being convicted of selling around two kilos (four pounds) of crack cocaine. Three Iranian men convicted of rape and another of smuggling heroin and opium, were hanged in the central city of Yazd. The Islamic republic, where murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery are punishable by death, has one of the highest annual execution counts in the world, alongside China, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has condemned the executions, but Tehran says the death penalty is essential to maintain law and order and that it is enforced only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.