In Depth

Death toll from bootleg alcohol in Iran rises to 42

Alcohol is illegal for Muslims in Iran but bootleg booze is widely available on the black market

The death toll in Iran from a recent spate of incidents involving bootleg alcohol has increased to 42, the country's government has announced.

In the past three weeks, at least 460 people across five provinces have been hospitalised, “with the youngest victim a 19-year-old woman”, says the BBC.

Police in the southern city of Bandar Abbas last week arrested a couple for allegedly producing homemade alcohol.

According to Sky News, state TV quoted the head of the medical school in Hormozgan province, where Bandar Abbas is located, as saying 123 people had sought help for alcohol poisoning.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, alcohol has been banned in Iran and punishable by floggings and cash fines.

Iran's Islamic penal code states that the punishment for consumption of alcohol by a Muslim is 80 lashes.

There is however “an exemption for non-Muslim citizens to produce alcohol for their own consumption or for religious purposes, like the Eucharist”, says the BBC.

Despite the strict alcohol ban, “many Iranians drink foreign and homemade alcoholic beverages that are available on the black market”, says Radio Free Europe.

Iranian officials estimate that up to 80 million litres of alcohol worth $730 million (£560m) are smuggled into the country every year.

According to the BBC’s Rana Rahimpour it is not unusual for tainted alcohol to cause injuries or deaths in Iran, but what is surprising is the significant number of deaths and the spread of the problem to the provinces.

Analysts spoken to by the BBC believe the economic impact of the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal may be playing a part.

It is thought that the cause of the deaths could be the fact that ethanol is sometimes replaced with the toxic methanol in the contaminated drink.

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