By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - The Islamist Hamas group said they had executed a Palestinian man in Gaza on Wednesday despite appeals from human rights groups not to hang him because he was under 18 when one of two murders for which he was convicted occurred.
Hani Abu Eleyan, 28, was the 17th Palestinian executed by Hamas since it seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. At least eight others were killed as alleged spies for Israel.
The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said Eleyan was convicted of two murders, one in 2000, involving the rape and killing of a minor, and another in 2009.
Human Rights Watch and other groups had urged Hamas to halt the use of capital punishment and in Eleyan's case, had said he was 14 when the first crime occurred. They said he had confessed under torture.
Hamas denies the use of torture in interrogation centers and said Eleyan had been accorded the right to a lawyer before the verdict was issued.
The last executions carried out by Hamas came in June when two men were hanged on charges of spying for Israel. Hamas does not recognize Israel as a legitimate state.
Hamas said those executions were aimed at discouraging Palestinians from committing crimes and punishment by death penalty was a tool of deterrence in accordance with Islamic law.
Human rights activists say such executions violate Palestinian law which mandates that all such verdicts must be reviewed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas does not recognize the Western-backed Abbas, who holds sway in the occupied West Bank, as having any authority in Gaza.
(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Janet Lawrence)