Drink driver numbers 'alarming', Iranian official says

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Tehran (AFP)

Police in Tehran arrested 2,900 drink drivers last year, a top official said Tuesday, describing the figures, which come despite the Islamic republic's official prohibition of alcohol, as "alarming".

The offenders were detained in the 12 months up to March 2016, the Iranian capital's prosecutor general Abbas Jafarabadi said, according to the judiciary's official news service.

Alcohol has been banned in Iran since the revolution in 1979 and those who break the law can be fined, lashed or serve prison time. Only the country's Christian minority has the right to produce wine for religious purposes.

However, demand for all types of drink fuels smuggling from neighbouring Iraq and Turkey. The inflated prices charged by illegal networks has also spurred cheaper locally produced beer, wine and spirits.

According to official figures, there are 200,000 alcoholics in Iran among the 79 million population. Some experts believe that more than one million Iranians regularly consume alcohol.

In recent years police have used breath tests in roadside checks, recognising the magnitude of the problem.

The fine for offenders has also been doubled from 2,000,000 rials (around $60) to 4,000,000 rials.

The report that quoted Jafarabadi did not detail any nationwide drink driving arrest statistics.