Iran halts death penalty for minor drug crimes

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian media say the country has begun implementing new guidelines that will prevent thousands of convicted drug smugglers from being executed.

The new regulations, approved by parliament in October, would limit the death penalty to drug kingpins, armed dealers and those convicted of smuggling more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of opium or 2 kilograms of heroin. Previous law prescribed the death penalty for smuggling 20 kilograms of opium or 30 grams of heroin.

The pro-reform Shargh newspaper and other dailies reported Wednesday that Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, the head of the judiciary, has ordered officials to "quickly" review cases and implement the new regulations.

Rights groups say Iran is among the world's leading executioners. The country does not release official figures on executions.