Mashhad, Iran, Sept 7, IRNA -- Five young Iranian hoodlums were flogged in public in the
north-eastern city of Shandiz Friday for having attacked vehicles while drunk, IRNA correspondent at the scene witnessed.
The youth, aged 14 to 25, received 80 lashes each during the weekly Friday prayers ceremony in Shandiz, some 35
kilometres north of the holy city of Mashhad.
The five along with nine others, now acquitted, were earlier found guilty of stopping vehicles in streets, injuring occupants and disrupting public order for hours while drunk.
Alcohol consumption, under Islamic law, is automatically punishable by lashing. Along with other social vices, it is said to be on the rise among the country's youth.
A row is raging in Iran between conservatives and reformists over public executions and floggings, which have seen a sharp rise over recent months, despite warnings from the judiciary to stay out of it.
The country's conservative-led judiciary has justified public floggings as a way of countering the rising incidents of social criminality. There are, however, renewed debates among political and religious figures as to whether such punishment would effectively deter criminality.
Judiciary officials and conservatives in government insist they are an inseparable part of Islamic doctrine and are justified as a means of deterring particular crimes and breaches of Islamic teachings.
Public floggings, used in ancient societies to punish social or moral derelictions, were rarely imposed in the country even before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has ordered the authority to punish offenders publicly to be conferred only on police.
Deputy judiciary chief Hadi Marvi has said that the punishments currently are not carried out publicly in the country except by police.
President Mohammad Khatami has however said that "harsh and repressive measures won't help us fight corruption among young people. We all need to cooperate to find a solution."
A fresh wave of public floggings
TEHRAN, Sept 7 (AFP) - Only Iran's police will now be authorized to carry out public floggings and executions, and those only in "specific cases," the deputy head of the country's judiciary, Hadi Marvi, was quoted by the state news agency IRNA as saying Friday.
No details were given on what was meant by "specific cases." The new regulations will end a situation in which many floggings have been carried out by non-uniformed personnel, usually Islamic militants.
Marvi said the order reflected a "compromise" hammered out in consultations between the judiciary and the reformist-dominated government and that it would be "very effective" in curbing social vices and
offences in the country.
A fresh wave of public floggings, with some 200 youth publicly lashed in Tehran in recent weeks, has become a new cause for disputes between reformers surrounding moderate President Mohammad Khatami and the nation's powerful conservatives.
Carried out frequently in the tumultuous early days of the 1979 Islamic revolution, public floggings and executions gradually disappeared from the public eye.
But floggings have once more become a popular form of punishment, usually meted out on young people for having sex outside of marriage, or for consumption of drugs or alcohol.
Iran's reform-majority parliament held a top-level emergency meeting late last month to examine ways to curb the rocketing number of public floggings, which some officials say could have a negative impact on the Islamic republic's international image.