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Iran wants to improve prison conditions

August 22, 2000
Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Teheran (dpa) - Iran wants to improve the prison conditions, the official news agency IRNA reported Tuesday.

``We are still far beyond the social and humane principles and the prisons need an overhaul since a prisoner is a human who should be corrected,'' Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahroudi was quoted by IRNA as saying.

``The Islamic penal code assigns the jail term as the last resort,'' the Ayatollah said adding that ``social irregularities, insecurities and abnormalities'' should have cultural solutions rather than jail terms.

A group of reformist MPs visited earlier this month the notorious Evin prison in northern Teheran and prepared a detailed report said to be critical.

Although Iran says that it has no political prisoners but a number of detained liberal journalist, including even former Vice-President Abdullah Nuri, are considered by reformists to be the new generation of political prisoners.

There are an estimated 158,000 prisoners in Iran , more than 60 per cent of them were serving sentences on drug-related charges and are reportedly segregated from other inmates. Other prisoners are mainly related to armed robbery or embezzlement.

It was reported earlier this year that Iran 's prison population is almost 15 times higher than it was before the Islamic revolution in 1979, having increased number 10,000 in 1979 to 148,000 in 1999.

There are some 5,000 women in the Iranian prisons but the judiciary head called on judges to ignore ``as much as legally possible'' issuing prison sentences for women.

According to press reports, in the years 1998 and 1999, non-marital sex among high school students in Iran has increased by 635 per cent. Also the age of women engaged in non-marital have reportedly dropped from 27 to 20.

Non-marital sex in Iran is widely considered as ``prostitution and moral irregularity'' which is leading in urban areas ``to a decrease of Islamic virtues''.


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