TEHRAN - Agence France-Presse
Members of a smuggling group stand near boxes in a tent as they prepare to move during an alcohol-smuggling operation to Iran, at the border near Sulaimaniya, 260 km northeast of Baghdad January 26, 2012. REUTERS Photo
Iran is to execute two people caught drinking alcohol for a third time after judges upheld the Islamic republic's strict laws on liquor consumption, media on Monday quoted a top judicial official as saying.
Hassan Shariati, the judiciary chief of the northeastern province of Khorasan-e Razavi, announced the sentence in an ISNA news agency report that was published by the Donya-e-Eqtesad daily.
The two unidentified people were repeat offenders, having been twice before convicted of drinking and lashed 80 times each, Shariati said.
He said the death penalty for their third conviction had been validated by Iran's Supreme Court.
Under Iran's interpretation of Islamic sharia law, imposed after its 1979 revolution, a first and second conviction on the charge of drinking alcohol is punishable by a maximum sentence of 80 lashes.
A third offence risks a death penalty but, if the convicted person repents, the sentence can be commuted to the whipping.
Only members of Iran's Christian minorities are exempt from the alcohol laws.
The last time execution was ordered for a repeat offender on the charge was in 2007, but it was overturned after the convict officially expressed contrition, the Shargh daily reported.
Despite Iran's tough penalties, some 60 million to 80 million litres (16 million to 21 million gallons) of alcohol are smuggled into the country each year, of which police seize only around a quarter, according to officials.
An officer at Iran's anti-smuggling bureau said in early 2011 that the value of liquor smuggled to Iran
was around $730 million per annum. According to Iran's police chief, Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghadam, the country has some 200,000 alcoholics.
Alcohol is also covertly manufactured in Iran, sometimes resulting in deaths due to the production methods used.
Iranian police have also started taking measures against driving under the influence of alcohol, with offenders liable to a fine of two million rials (120 dollars), confiscation of their driving licence and criminal prosecution.