Lawmakers in Iran's newly installed parliament are drawing up legislation to abolish the death penalty for drug smugglers, which account for a majority of the country's executions, The New York Times said.
In Tuesday's report, the newspaper counted Iran as second in the world behind China in executions.
It said the Iranian government doesn't publish any statistics on executions but local media say 950 people were hanged last year, though human rights groups say that total is 1,500.
The legislation apparently faces an uphill battle, with Iran's hardliners rejecting the proposal. Sadegh Larijani, head of Iran's judiciary, is quoted as calling any criticism of capital punishment "inappropriate."
If the judiciary had not taken a tough stance, the situation would have been very bad, and drugs would have been available even at traditional medicine stores, Larijani told the Iranian news agency Fars last week.
Yahya Kamalpour, a reformist lawmaker, arguing in favor of the bill expected to be introduced to Parliament, is quoted to have told the ISNA news agency:
"We want to eliminate the death penalty for those criminals who act out of desperation. We need a scientific not an emotional approach to this problem."
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