Friday, May 03, 2002

Dateline: Iran

Iran Hangs Serial Prostitute Killer

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A convicted serial killer who strangled 16 Iranian women with their headscarves was hanged on Wednesday, state radio said.

Saeed Hanai confessed to picking up the victims, mostly prostitutes, on the streets of the holy city of Mashhad, luring them back to his home while his wife and three children were away, strangling them and dumping their bodies on waste ground.

Under Iran's strict Sharia law, victims' relatives can ask for "blood money" instead of the death penalty. But only four of the 16 families demanded the payment, the radio said.

The killings were dubbed the "spider murders" because the killer used his victims' headscarves to entangle and suffocate them as a spider weaves a web to trap its prey.

The murders met mixed reactions in Mashhad, Iran's holiest city and a center for Shiite Muslim pilgrimage. They struck fear into many residents, but others in the Islamic Republic proclaimed the women got what they deserved.