Iran hangs woman in defiance of international campaign

Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, who had been on death row for five years for killing an intelligence officer who she said had tried to rape her, was put to death at dawn on Saturday.

Rayhaneh Jabbari at her trial in Tehran in 2008. Golara Sajadieh / EPA
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TEHRAN // Iran has 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 on Saturday, the official Irna news agency reported, citing the Tehran prosecutor’s office.

Amnesty International condemned the execution, describing it as “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 2007 stabbing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi.

Iranian actors and other prominent figures had campaigned for clemency on her behalf, echoing similar calls in the West.

Iran’s judiciary had given several deadlines for Sarbandi’s family to spare Jabbari under a sharia law provision that allows a death sentence for murder to be commuted to jail time with the agreement of the victim’s family.

But relatives of Sarbandi, a 47-year-old surgeon who earlier worked for the intelligence ministry, refused the pleas to spare Jabbari’s life, 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, 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.

He told two of Iran’s reformist daily newspapers, Shargh and Etemad, in April that his family “would not even contemplate mercy until truth is unearthed” about her alleged accomplice.

Jabbari’s mother was allowed to visit her for one hour on Friday, Amnesty said, a custom that tends to precede executions in Iran.

The global human rights monitor’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said news of 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.

According to the United Nations, more than 250 people have been executed in Iran this year.

The UN and international human rights groups have said Jabbari made a confession under intense pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors, and that she should have had a retrial.

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, Sarbandi’s family dismissed her account and said Jabbari had confessed to buying a knife two days before the killing.

* Agence France-Presse