Two men in Iran are at imminent risk of execution after being found guilty of gay rape, according to Amnesty International.

The organisation, which lobbies against the death sentence around the world, has reported that Tayyeb Karimi and Yazdan may be executed at any time by being `thrown from a height’, or `cliff’.

They were convicted of abduction, rape and theft and sentenced to death by a judge in Shiraz, Fars Province, Southern Iran, in May 2007. Four other men have been sentenced to 100 lashes each for their involvement in the same crimes.

On 2 January 2008, Qods, a national daily newspaper in Iran, reported that the sentences of the two men had been confirmed by the Supreme Court, and sent for implementation.

The six men were accused of having abducted two young men in the city of Arsanjan, to the east of Shiraz, whom they harassed and whose property they stole before allegedly raping them. It is unclear whether the harshness of the sentence is due to the homosexual aspect of the crime.

Iran’s Penal Code states in Article 109 that both men involved in same-sex penetrative (anal) or non-penetrative sex will be punished. Article 110 states that those convicted of engaging in anal sex will be executed and that the manner of execution is at the discretion of the judge. Article 111 states that both will be executed “provided both the active and passive parties are mature, sane and consenting”.

“The sentence passed in this case is exceptional in its apparent intent to inflict suffering,” said Amnesty International.

At a press conference on 15 January, Ali Reza Jamshidi, the Spokesman for the Judiciary in Iran, confirmed that the sentences had been upheld by the Supreme Court, but that they had not yet been carried out.

The sentence was condemned by the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, a Tehran-based human rights NGO whose members include Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

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