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Complainant Name:
Reza Esfandiari

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Times


Reza Esfandiari complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published an article which contained the inaccurate claim that under Islamic law in Iran "lesbians face 100 lashes and, if caught four times, death. Male homosexuals likewise face execution. Scores have been hanged and hundreds flogged since the Islamic revolution of 1979". The complainant argued that homosexuality is not punishable by death in Iran and made clear that the country is largely tolerant, particularly in regard to transgender issues.


The newspaper questioned the motives of the complainant in contacting the PCC but defended its coverage by referring to a case in 2005 where two teenage boys were hanged. The newspaper said that the boys were originally to be hanged for their homosexuality but, in its view, the Iranian government retrospectively announced that the charge against them was that of child rape. The newspaper provided links to the Islamic Penal Code of Iran which states that the penalty for sodomy is death and highlighted the Wikipedia webpage on capital punishment in the country.

The complainant rejected the newspaper's arguments because although sodomy is considered illegal in Iran, a conviction requires the extremely unlikely presentation of testimonies from four independent witnesses to the act before a charge to be brought in court.

This was clearly an issue open to debate. The complaint was finally resolved when the PCC negotiated the amendment of the online article to make clear that it is the belief of "many human rights organisations" that "scores of homosexuals may have been hanged and hundreds flogged since the Islamic revolution of 1979", rather than an accepted matter of fact.

Date Published: 12/07/2010

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