Iran hangs three men in public for rape, kidnap

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TEHRAN, Oct 17 (Reuters) Iran hanged three men in public today for kidnapping and raping two women, Iranian media said, the latest in a series of executions in the Islamic state criticised by rights groups and the European Union.

The convicted men were put to death at the site of their crime in the southern city of Shiraz, the Fars News Agency said, without giving details on the location.

''These three criminals were charged with kidnapping, disturbing public security, rape and molestation,'' it quoted Shiraz Public Prosecutor Jaber Baneshi as saying.

''Disguised as taxi drivers, they kidnapped two women and molested them after taking them to gardens near Shiraz,'' he said.

The number of executions in Iran, many in public, has risen since July with the launch of a summer crackdown on ''immoral behaviour''.

Police have arrested dozens of drug addicts, smugglers, rapists and murderers.

Amnesty International, which says Iran has one of the highest rates of executions in the world, last month said it had recorded 210 so far this year, compared with 177 for all of 2006.

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

Iran says it is prosecuting criminals under Islamic law and rejects criticism of its human rights record.

REUTERS PD ND1640

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