Iran’s new drug law may spare thousands from execution

Playing with his friends in a dusty alley of a remote village somewhere in the central province of Isfahan, Iran, 6-year-old Reza finally had a sparkle in his eyes after years of anguish.

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This morning, Reza was told that his mother, Mansoureh, who has been in prison on drug crimes for six years and was sentenced to death, might will not be executed after all thanks to a change in a drug law that has softened the punishment for some offenders.

Mansoureh and Reza’s father, Majid, were arrested and imprisoned after they were caught carrying 8 kilograms (nearly 18 pounds) of drugs. The change in the law is too late to save Majid — who was executed 14 months ago — but may save Mansoureh.

Vahid Salemi/AP, FILE
Two Iranian custom officers hold their drug-sniffing dogs at Iran’s Dogharoun custom’s house on border with Afghanistan, near Taibad in eastern Iran, June 1, 2014.

“It keeps one of his parents for him,” Zahra, Reza’s grandmother who’s been raising him, told ABC News. The death sentence for some drug-related crimes was abolished and replaced with life imprisonment or fines last fall. According to the former law, possessing 30 grams (1 ounce) of heroin or 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of opium could send offenders to the gallows.

The new law raised the threshold for capital punishment to possessing more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of opium, 2 kilograms (4 pounds) of heroin or 3 kilograms (7 pounds) of meth. On Tuesday, it was announced that those awaiting execution have the right to have their cases reviewed given the new law, offering hope to thousands on death row.

Caren Firouz/Reuters, FILE
Confiscated opium is seen on display during a ceremony concluding anti-narcotics manoeuvres in Zahedan, 1,003 miles southeast of Tehran, May 20, 2009.

It’s estimated the move could save as many 5,000 who have already received a death penalty

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