Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi has come under fire for claiming that the entire male population of a village in restive Sistan-Baluchistan Province has been executed on drug-related offenses.
Molaverdi made the claim in a February 23 interview with the semiofficial Mehr news agency, without specifying the name of the village or the number of people executed.
"We have a village in Sistan-Baluchistan where every single man has been executed," Molaverdi said.
The province is used as a route by drug traffickers due to its proximity to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Molaverdi warned that "the survivors are potential drug dealers, as they would want to seek revenge for their fathers and also provide for their families."
The shocking claim, which made headlines in Persian-language and Western media, has angered local officials, who accuse Molaverdi of spreading lies and damaging the province.
Sistan-Baluchistan's deputy chief justice, Mohammad Ali Hamidian, said on March 2 that a legal complaint has been launched against Molaverdi because, he said, her claim constituted "spreading lies and defamation" about the judicial system.
Hamidian was quoted by local news sites as saying that Molaverdi has linked "the failure" of the executive branch to solve the problems of Sistan-Baluchistan -- one of Iran's poorest regions -- to the judiciary.
Another local official, Hassan Razavidust, also blasted Molaverdi, while dismissing her claim as a "pure lie."
"Since the claim is false, the vice president should be held [legally] responsible and apologize to the people in the province," Razavidust, a deputy prosecutor for the region's capital, Zahedan, was quoted by domestic media as saying.
Several lawmakers also criticized Molaverdi while suggesting that such a village does not exist. Among them is Zahedan's representative to the parliament, who said the issue will be pursued through the parliament and other bodies.
"This interview destroyed the reputation of Sistan-Baluchistan," the lawmaker, Hosseinali Shahriari, said. He added: "Many people contact us and ask about the basis for this claim."
Shahriari said he personally had no information about such a village.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Iranian judiciary's Human Rights Council, told CNN on March 1 that he is looking into the issue.
He suggested that the number of those executed in the village was small.
"[As for] what the vice president said, I think we should be aware that a village which has only five families living in it...the male population of that -- five or six [men] -- could be involved in the drug-trafficking incident," Larijani told CNN in an interview from Geneva.
Molaverdi has yet to react publicly to the wave of criticism.
She was quoted by a local website as saying that she does not plan to give any interviews on the matter.
Iran has one the highest execution rates in the world. According to figures released by Amnesty International, Iran executed nearly 700 people in the first half of 2015.
Most of those were hanged after being convicted of drug-related offenses, including drug trafficking.