Iran hangs man convicted of killing for cellphones

Iran has hanged a man in a prison in the northeastern city of Mashhad after convicting him of murdering an acquaintance who owned a mobile phone shop, the Khorasan newspaper reported on Monday.

The report did not name the man sent to the gallows on Sunday but said he had stabbed to death a 26-year-old it identified by his first name Mehdi.

He was found guilty of taking Mehdi's keys and then stealing mobile phones and cash from the shop's safe.

The latest hanging brings to 160 the number of executions reported in Iran so far this year, according to an AFP count based on media and official reports.

Iranian media reported 179 hangings last year but international human rights groups say the actual number was much higher, ranking the Islamic republic second only to China in the number of people it put to death.

Tehran says the death penalty is essential to maintain law and order, and applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings. Murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery are among the crimes punishable by death in Iran.

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