The European Union has condemned in the “strongest terms” the execution of 29 people at a notorious prison in Tehran last month.

The mass hangings, at Evin prison in the Sa’adat Abad suburb, were given prominent coverage in the Iranian press.

The country’s state broadcaster IRIB even broadcast interviews with ten of the condemned men in which they said they deserved to be killed for their crimes, which reportedly included rape, murder and “disrupting public security and peace.”

“The 29 who were executed were involved in the smuggling of narcotics on a wide scale, organised crime, murder and armed robbery,” said Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.

The executions, which were carried out on Sunday 27th July, bring the total number in 2008 to more than 150.

The EU said in a statement:

“The Iranian regime’s action of staging these executions and making them the focus of media attention is an affront to human dignity.

“The European Union remains convinced that capital punishment cannot form the basis of a fair and effective prosecution policy: the dissuasive effect of this penalty has never been proved and any judicial error is irreversible.

“The European Union is deeply concerned by the increasing recourse to the death penalty in Iran in recent months.

“It urges the Iranian authorities to put an end to death sentences and executions, to establish a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty in accordance with the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and to respect international human rights standards for all Iranians.”

In 2005 Iran sparked international outrage when it publicly executed two teenage boys.

Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were hanged because according to the regime they were rapists, however gay campaigners insist the boys were killed under Sharia law for the crime of homosexuality.

At first it was claimed by Iranian officials that they were aged 18 and 19.

The best evidence is that both youths were aged 17 when they were executed and therefore minors, aged 15 or 16, at the time of their alleged crimes.

Iranian human rights campaigners estimate that 4,000 gay men have been executed since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Under Sharia law gay sex illegal, with penalty of death for offenders as young as 14 years old.

“Within the structure of many penal codes (in Iran) sodomy laws are grouped together with rape, sexual assault, incest and sexual abuse of children thereby conflating crimes of sexual violence with acts of non-procreative sex,” according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Earlier this year it was reported that the Iranian authorities are considering extending the use of the death penalty to corruption, prostitution and renouncing Islam, or apostasy, on the internet.