Iran has executed an average of almost two people a day in the first six months of this year, human rights groups have warned.
The sharp escalation in the use of capital punishment comes at a time when the Islamic regime is fighting to prevent pro-democracy movements similar to those that have been sweeping across the Middle East from taking hold in the country.
Human rights groups that have been carefully monitoring the rate of executions in Iran said the authorities had launched a fresh campaign of secret and mass hangings of prisoners in the provinces.
According to Amnesty International, Iran has acknowledged the execution of 190 people from the beginning of 2011 until the end of June but at least 130 others have also been reported to have been executed.
Iran Human Rights (IHR), an independent NGO based in Norway, told the Guardian it had recorded 390 executions since January, including two death sentences carried out on Thursday.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), a US-based non-government organisation, said its records showed 320 executions – a combination of those announced by the regime and those that have taken place in secret.