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Iran parliament softens drug death penalty laws

© TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/AFP/File | An Iranian policeman stands guard as 50 tonnes of illegal drugs are destroyed during a ceremony on June 27, 2015 in the northeast city of Mashhad

TEHRAN (AFP) - 

Iran's parliament passed a long-awaited amendment to its drug trafficking laws on Sunday, raising the thresholds that can trigger capital punishment and potentially saving the lives of many on death row.

The bill must still be approved by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council but gained parliamentary approval after months of debate, according to parliament's website and the ISNA news agency.

According to Amnesty International, Iran was one of the top five executioners in the world in 2016, with most of its hangings related to illicit drugs.

The new law raises the amounts that can trigger the death penalty from 30 grams to two kilos for the production and distribution of chemical substances such as heroin, cocaine and amphetamine.

For natural substances such as opium and marijuana, the levels have been raised from five to 50 kilos.

The amendment will apply retroactively, thus commuting the sentences for many of the 5,300 inmates currently on death row for drug trafficking.

© 2017 AFP