Iran on Saturday hanged a woman convicted of murdering a former intelligence officer she claimed had tried to sexually assault her, defying international appeals for a stay of execution. Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, who had been on death row for five years, was put to death at dawn, the official IRNA news agency quoted the Tehran prosecutor’s office as saying. The execution drew condemnation from the United States and human rights monitor Amnesty International, which dubbed it “a bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record” and “an affront to justice”.
A message posted on the homepage of a Facebook campaign set up to try to save Jabbari noted the “sad news” of her death, adding the words “Rest in Peace” alongside pictures of her as a young child. Jabbari, an interior designer, was executed for the fatal 2007 stabbing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi.
The United Nations and human rights groups had said a confession to her crime was obtained under intense pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors, and that she should have had a retrial. Iranian actors and other prominent figures had campaigned for clemency on Jabbari’s behalf, echoing similar calls in the West. The judiciary had given several deadlines for Sarbandi’s family to spare Jabbari under an Islamic sharia law provision that allows a death sentence for murder to be commuted to jail time.
But relatives of Sarbandi, a 47-year-old surgeon who earlier worked for the intelligence ministry, refused the pleas, demanding, according to Iranian media, that she tell “the truth.” A UN human rights monitor said the killing came in self-defence after Sarbandi tried to sexually abuse Jabbari, and that the condemned woman’s trial in 2009 had been deeply flawed. But a medical report, prepared for the judiciary and quoted by IRNA in its Saturday dispatch, said Sarbandi was stabbed in the back and that the killing had been premeditated.
Efforts for a commuted jail sentence had intensified in recent weeks but Sarbandi’s family and Jabbari remained at loggerheads over the circumstances of the killing. According to Jalal Sarbandi, the victim’s eldest son, Jabbari testified that a man was present in the apartment where his father was killed but she had refused to reveal his identity.
Jabbari’s mother was allowed to visit her for one hour on Friday, Amnesty said, a custom that tends to precede executions in Iran.
Following Jabbari’s death, the US State Department issued a statement that cited “serious concerns with the fairness” of her trial, including “reports of confessions made under severe duress.”
“We join our voice with those who call on Iran to respect the fair trial guarantees afforded to its people under Iran’s own laws and its international obligations,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki added.
Britain voiced similar concerns and called on the Islamic republic to halt its use of the death penalty.
“Actions like these do not help Iran build confidence or trust with the international community. I urge Iran to put a moratorium on all executions,” said Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood.
According to the United Nations, more than 250 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014. Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said Jabbari’s death was “disappointing in the extreme”.
“Tragically, this case is far from uncommon. Once again Iran has insisted on applying the death penalty despite serious concerns over the fairness of the trial,” she added.
Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s human rights rapporteur on Iran, said in April that Sarbandi had offered to hire Jabbari to redesign his office and took her to an apartment where he sexually assaulted her. However, the victim’s family rejected that account and said Jabbari had confessed to buying a knife two days before the killing. SAPA