Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani has ordered a stop to executions of drug convicts in a remarkable move that many believe may decrease executions by 90%. On Jan. 9, Larijani ordered that all death sentences of prisoners convicted of drug crimes be halted and their cases be reviewed.
The new order was announced to all judicial authorities across the country. Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri is tasked with monitoring the enforcement of the order.
The important move comes after Iran’s parliament passed an amendment to the law on combating drugs in the fall of 2017. Based on the amendment, the death penalty for a number of prisoners convicted of drug crimes will be canceled and prisoners will instead face imprisonment and fines.
According to the new law, only those who participate in producing or distributing more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of “traditional drugs” (opium) or more than 2 kilograms of heroin and 3 kilograms of methamphetamines will face the death penalty.
Previously, those who distributed or produced 5 kilograms of opium and 30 grams (1 ounce) of methamphetamines could face the death penalty.
In an interview with a local news agency on April 23, 2017, Hassan Nowruzi, the spokesman for the judicial commission of parliament, stated that this new amendment cancels the death penalty for about 4,000 prisoners. In a new interview with Jaam-e Jam newspaper on Jan. 10, Nowruzi stated the number of drug convicts whose death penalties are being canceled will be more than 5,000, as 15,000 cases are now being reviewed following the judiciary chief’s order.
Of note, on Aug. 3, 2016, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of the judiciary’s High Council for Human rights, told state TV that 90% of death penalties in Iran are due to drug-related crimes.
Enforcement of the new order would quickly rid Iran of its status as the second-biggest executioner in the world, with reference to the number of prisoners executed.
In other news, former Deputy Foreign Minister for Euro-American Affairs Majid Takht-Ravanchi, who is now serving as deputy chief of staff of Iran's presidential office, said it is not clear what decision US President Donald Trump will make regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the upcoming Jan. 12 deadline to sign sanctions waivers as part of the landmark accord.
On Jan. 10, Takht-Ravanchi stated, “There are various speculations about whether Trump will waive the sanctions against Iran or not. Given Trump’s unpredictable personality, it is not [accurate] if a person says that Trump will 100% waive the sanctions or not.”
He added, “The analysis in Europe and the United States indicates that it is not clear what Trump will do. However, the international environment is positive toward the continuance of the JCPOA’s implementation, and there are serious criticisms about the United States [not] honoring its commitments.”
Speaking of “serious disagreements between the United States and its partners” on the nuclear deal, the senior Iranian official continued, “In the recent session of the UN Security Council … the Security Council members and even the closest allies [of the United States] emphasized that the [implementation of] the JCPOA must be continued.”
Takht-Ravanchi then warned, “If Trump and the United States withdraw from the JCPOA, our reaction will turn operational quickly, and the Americans will be surprised by our speed.” He added, “For one year, we have prepared [for the scenario] of what will happen in the country and which way our [foreign] relationships will go if the JCPOA no longer exists.”