[JURIST] Iran's chief judge issued a ban [IRNA report] Wednesday against all public executions not specially permitted by the head of the judiciary. Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi [Wikipedia profile] also banned the publication of pictures and videos of executions and ordered state prosecutors to enforce the bans. Commentators said that Shahroudi probably wants to remove executions from the public eye [BBC report] following harsh international criticism of Iran's execution practices, including stoning [JURIST report] and the execution of juveniles [JURIST report]. Shahroudi, who is a moderate conservative, was also responsible for issuing a 2002 moratorium against stoning and declaring a ban on using torture to force confessions.
Iran has reportedly hanged 20 people this year for crimes such as murder and drug smuggling, and human rights groups said that the country executed about 300 people in 2007. Last April, an Amnesty International report [text; JURIST report] named Iran as having one of the three highest execution rates in the world, along with China and Pakistan. Most executions in the country are carried out by hanging and are related to traditional capital crimes including murder and rape, although an Iranian airport customs was executed for corruption [JURIST report] earlier this week. AP has more.