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Men stoned to death for adultery in Iran

    * Story Highlights
    * Officials say two men in Iran stoned to death for adultery and murder
    * Country heavily criticized for its use of stoning punishment
    * One man escaped death by digging his way out of hole where he was buried
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Officials say two men in Iran have been stoned to death 
for adultery and murder, while another escaped death only by digging his way 
out of the hole where he was buried to face a similar fate, according to media 

The sentences follow sharp criticism by human rights groups of Iran's use of 
such punishments.

Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi Tuesday told reporters about the stonings, 
which took place in the northeastern city of Mashhad about 20 days ago, the 
reports said.

According to the Mashhad prosecutor, the men had committed various crimes, 
including adultery and murder, Jamshidi said.

In the practice, the men are buried up to their chests and people pelt them 
with stones until they die.

A third was supposed to have been stoned to death, however he went free by 
climbing out of the stone hole. He still awaits punishment.

"Stoning is a horrific practice, designed to increase the suffering of those 
facing execution, and it has no place in the modern world," Amnesty 
International said last year.

Jamshidi said that Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Heshemi Shahroudi, had 
made recommendations that would ban the practice and said that a measure has 
been introduced in Parliament stopping the punishment.

But "until this measure is approved and becomes law, the judges have the 
independence not to pay heed to the recommendations of the Judiciary chief," 
Jamshidi said.

Amnesty said in a report last year that Iran's penal code allows execution by 
stoning as the penalty for adultery. The group said the law calls for stones 
"large enough to cause pain, but no so large as to kill the victim immediately."

In August, Amnesty International issued a statement welcoming an announcement 
that stoning had been suspended and several women had their sentences commuted.

In that announcement, the group said at least one stoning execution was carried 
out in 2007 in Qazvin province and a woman and a man were known to have been 
stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006.

"The majority of those sentenced to death by stoning are women. Women are not 
treated equally with men under the law and by courts, and they are also 
particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because their higher illiteracy rate 
makes them more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit," 
Amnesty said.
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