Amnesty International denounced “another bloody stain” on Iran’s human rights record on Saturday when a 26-year-old woman was executed for allegedly killing a man who she said was intent on rape.
Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn in Rajaie Shahr prison outside Tehran after spending seven years behind bars. She was the 967th person to be executed since Hassan Rouhani took office as Iran’s president on 4 Aug 2013, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre.
The state media announced that Miss Jabbari had been put to death after the family of the man she was accused of killing declined to grant a reprieve. Her mother, Shole Pakravan, confirmed the execution and said she was going to a cemetery to identify her daughter’s corpse.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups had campaigned for Miss Jabbari to be spared the death penalty. On several occasions, her execution was thought to be imminent, but each time there was a delay. In the end, however, Iran’s hardline judiciary proved impermeable to outside pressure.
“This is another bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Once again Iran has insisted on applying the death penalty despite serious concerns over the fairness of the trial.”
Miss Jabbari was sentenced to death in 2009 after what Amnesty called a “deeply flawed investigation”. She admitted stabbing Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former intelligence ministry official, but pleaded self-defence. On her account, she stabbed Sarbandi in the back as he was trying to rape her – but the victim was actually killed by another named person, who was never the focus of inquiry.
Amnesty said these claims “if proven” could have exonerated Miss Jabari. But they were never “properly investigated, raising many questions about the circumstances of the killing”.
Amnesty added that the judiciary had “pressured” Miss Jabbari to “replace her lawyer, Mohammad Ali Jedari Foroughi, for a more inexperienced one, in an apparent attempt to prevent an investigation of her claims”.
Over the last decade, Iran’s regime has typically hanged between 500 and 600 people every year, giving the country the highest number of executions in the world, apart from China. Unlike in China, however, hangings in Iran often take place in public.
The pace of executions has accelerated since Mr Rouhani became president: 381 people were hanged between his accession to office and 31 Dec 2013. Another 586 are known to have been put to death so far this year, including Miss Jabbari, according to a database maintained by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre.
While Mr Rouhani has moderated Iran’s foreign policy, critics say that he has done nothing to ease the regime’s domestic oppression. In particular, he appointed a notorious figure, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, as justice minister. Mr Pour-Mohammadi was dubbed the “minister of murder” by Human Rights Watch for his role in overseeing the mass killing of thousands of prisoners in 1988.
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