TEHRAN -- A young Iranian man has been sentenced to hang for repeatedly drinking alcohol which is strictly banned in the Islamic republic, the Etemad newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old, identified only as Mohsen, was handed down the death penalty by a criminal court after being found guilty of drinking alcohol for a fourth time, the daily said.
"The defendant in this case has been sentenced to death and the official notification will be given soon," it quoted Judge Jalil Jalili as saying.
"According to article 179 of the Islamic penal code, if someone drinks twice and is punished for it on each occasion he should be executed on the third offence," Jalili said.
Mohsen was punished for drinking alcohol three times in May, June and October 2006. In the latest case, he was arrested for drunken and disorderly behavior on the street, the daily said.
The young man had expressed his repentance in a letter, but the judges of Branch 72 of Tehran penal court sentenced him to death.
The usual punishment for a single drinking offence is 80 lashes, according to Iran's penal code which is based in Islamic sharia law.
His execution still needs to be confirmed by Iran's supreme court before being carried out, as with all executions in the country. There are no recent records of any people being hanged in Iran for drinking alcohol.
The consumption of alcohol has been strictly forbidden since the 1979 Islamic revolution, although some Iranians flout the rules and the police regularly announce major alcohol seizures.
Only recognized Christian minorities in Iran, such as the Armenians, are allowed to produce and consume alcohol, discreetly and behind closed doors in order not to offend Islamic sensibilities.
Iran has seen an upsurge in executions -- mostly of rapists, murderers and drug-traffickers -- in recent months as the authorities implement a campaign which they say is aimed at improving security in society.