Death toll in Iran alcohol poisoning jumps to 84

Death toll in Iran alcohol poisoning jumps to 84
Multiple cases of poisoning by a deadly batch of moonshine were first reported in late September and have spread across Iran.
3 min read
29 October, 2018
Iran police confiscate and dump beer [Getty]
A total of 84 people have died and nearly 1,000 were poisoned from consuming bootleg alcohol over the past six weeks, Iran's health ministry said on Monday, according to an ISNA news agency report.

Multiple cases of poisoning by a deadly batch of moonshine were first reported in late September and have spread across the country. 

Iraj Harirchi, spokesman for the health ministry, said 959 people had been treated for poisoning, describing the wave of cases as "very unusual", according to the semi-official agency ISNA.

As well as 84 deaths, 305 have been treated for kidney damage and 27 suffered eye damage, he added.

Harirchi said the main cause was the use of toxic methanol in place of the ethanol found in properly distilled spirits.

"Some have been arrested in this regard and people should know that even alcohol packed and sealed in foreign packages can easily be fake," Harirchi said.

Bandar Abbas police chief, Esmail Mashayekh, told ISNA in September that a married couple had been arrested on suspicion of producing the liquor while the suspected distributor was also detained.

The most poisoning cases were reported in Alborz province north of Tehran and Hormozgan on the south coast.

Despite tough penalties against alcohol consumption since the Islamic revolution of 1979, the use of smuggled or bootleg liquor remains widespread. 

Only members of state-recognised religious minorities have the right to produce or purchase alcoholic drinks in Iran.

Those who break Iran's alcohol laws can be fined, lashed or jailed, but bootleg liquor is widely available through illegal dealers.

In July, an Iranian man was publicly flogged after being convicted of consuming alcohol as a teenager.

The public flogging took place on 10 July in Niazmand Square, Kashmar, Razavi Khorasan province, where the man, known just as MR, was flogged 80 times on his back.

Iranian media outlets posted a picture showing the young man tied to a tree as he was flogged by a masked man, with a crowd of people watching at a distance.

According to the Public Prosecutor of Kashmar, MR consumed alcohol during a wedding where an argument caused a fight that resulted in the death of a 17-year-old.

MR was not involved in the killing and the flogging sentence was only for drinking alcohol, the prosecutor said.

Rights group Amnesty International said the punishment 
"highlights the inhumanity of a justice system that legalises brutality".

Article 265 of Iran's Islamic Penal Code states that the punishment for consumption of alcohol by a Muslim is 80 lashes.

As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is legally obliged to forbid torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Amnesty added.
Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab