TEHRAN, Iran -- Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Saturday condemned the hanging of two teenagers accused of raping younger boys in northeastern Iran, a punishment that also prompted protests by the international community and rights groups.
Last week's hangings of an 18-year-old and 16-year-old on charges of involvement in homosexual acts violated Iran's obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans such executions, Ebadi said.
Ebadi said her Center for the Protection of Human Rights will intensify its fight against Iran's executions of minors.
"My calls for a law clearly banning execution of under-18s has fallen on deaf ears so far but I will not give up the fight," Ebadi told The Associated Press.
Mahmoud Asgari, 16, and Ayaz Marhoni, 18, were hanged publicly July 19 in the city of Mashhad on charges of raping younger boys. They said before their executions that they were not aware that homosexual acts were punishable by death.
Asgari had been accused of raping a 13-year-old boy. His lawyer, Rohollah Razaz Zadeh, said Iranian courts are supposed to commute death sentences handed to children to five years in jail.
"The judiciary has trampled its own laws," Razaz Zadeh told the AP.
But the lawyer said Iran's Supreme Court upheld the verdict and allowed the execution despite his objections.
Gay rights groups, such as the London-based Outrage!, and Iranian opposition groups suggested the rape allegations were trumped-up charges aimed to undermine public sympathy for the teenagers.
In Sweden, Foreign Ministry spokesman Per Saland said the government was "looking very seriously" at the hangings.
"We are against the death penalty and we particularly react when it comes to the execution of minors, pregnant women and the mentally disabled," Saland said.
The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights posted a photo on its Web site showing hooded executioners tightening ropes around the suspects' necks.
The group's chairman, Soren Andersson, called on Sweden's government not to deport gay and lesbian asylum seekers back to Iran.
"Sweden has turned gay and lesbian refugees back to Iran and they should know that these people could be killed," he said.
Being gay or lesbian should be enough for refugees to remain in Sweden and not be returned to Iran, he added.
Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, has campaigned to protect the rights of children and improve human rights in Iran but has met stiff resistance from the judiciary, which is controlled by hard-liners.
The Iranian government last year refused to give Ebadi permission to stage a rally to protest children's executions.
Under Iranian law, girls older than 9 and boys older than 15 face execution if they commit crimes such as murder and rape. Under certain conditions, capital punishment is imposed for those engaging in illegal sexual relations.
In 2003, a 16-year-old girl said to be suffering from a psychological disorder was executed in Neka, a town in northern Iran, on charges of having an illegal sexual relationship.
While there are no official figures on death sentences given to minors, human rights activists say about a dozen were executed in Iran last year.