Four men accused of stealing in Iran will have their fingers amputated, it has been reported.
The men – identified by Iranian media as Hadi Rostami, Mehdi Sharafian, Mehdi Shahivand and Kasra Karami – were reportedly ordered to have four fingers on their right hands severed.
Under Sharia law, amputation, whipping, and even death by stoning are all legal forms of punishment.
The men were originally tried on November 2 last year on four counts of robbery at a juvenile court in the city of Urmia, in northern Iran close to the border with Turkey, according to Iran International.
They have remained behind bars ever since and are still being held there.
Initial reports said three teenage boys were facing the tough sentence, but BBC Persian reports the four prisoners are “over 20 years old”.
Despite attempts to appeal the decision, Supreme Court judges this week upheld the verdict.
A report released by the Iran Human Rights Monitor said the men had claimed that they were forced to confess under torture.
According to the report, one of the prisoners, Rostami, was in a dire health condition in prison and had cut his wrists in protest of the upholding of his sentence earlier this year.
Iran’s Islamic penal code says theft “on the first occasion” is punishable by the amputation of four fingers of the right hand, The Sun reports.
But Nargess Tavalossian, legal analyst and journalist at Iran International TV, said amputation as a form of punishment is rare in Iran.
He said: “To have this type of punishment, there are 13 rules that all need to apply for the judge to order an amputation.
“However, judges usually avoid issuing such punishment by saying that 12 out of the 13 rules are met and amputation is therefore not required.”
The rules include that the property has to be valued over a certain amount, that it has to be taken from a secure space, and that it cannot be government property or taken during a famine – otherwise the punishment does not apply.
The local news website Kurdpa says the accused faced four robbery charges in Urmia, northeast Iran.
Human rights activists have expressed concerns about the possible execution of the sentence.
Iranian authorities have generally defended the form of punishment, saying it is the most effective means of deterring theft.
In October last year, Tehran was widely condemned for having dismembered another man’s finger after convicting him of theft, according to Fox News.
Amnesty International called the amputation, which took place in the northern province of Mazandaran, “an abhorrent form of torture.”
It is not immediately clear when the sentence would be carried out.
This month, Iran executed wrestler Navid Afkari, after accusing him of murdering a riot cop.
This led to protests as people demonstrated against his execution.
In 2018, a man in Iran had his hand amputated after being convicted of theft, Amnesty International reported.
The amputation, which was conducted by guillotine, took place in the central prison in Mashhad city in north-eastern Razavi Khorasan province, according to the state-sponsored newspaper Khorasan News.
The man was sentenced to hand amputation for stealing livestock and other valuables from several villages in the province.
He was transferred to a medical centre immediately after the punishment was carried out.