A 27-year-old woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, was executed by hanging in Iran on Saturday morning for premeditated murder, a crime she was convicted of in 2009. The young Iranian woman maintained to the end that she had killed in self-defense when Dr. Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi attempted to sexually assault her. Amnesty International, the United Nations (UN) and other human rights groups had tried to persuade Iran’s judiciary system to halt the execution, but the country’s Supreme Court upheld the verdict.
Jabbari, who was a 19-year-old interior designer at the time of the murder, reportedly met Sarbandi at his office in 2007 to discuss a possible renovation. Jabbari had a knife in her bag, which she testified at her trial that she had purchased two days earlier for protection. In her testimony Jabbari admitted to killing the doctor in self-defense, but a police interrogator said that the victim had been stabbed in the back while on his prayer rug, thereby indicating that Jabbari had intended to murder him. The UN’s Office for Human Rights stated that there was evidence that the woman’s conviction was based on a confession that she was coerced to make under the threat of torture.
Human rights group Amnesty International made a statement before Jabbari’s hanging saying that the investigation had been “deeply flawed,” and that her claims did not appear to have ever been investigated properly. After Jabbari’s execution this morning, the prosecutor’s office in Tehran made a statement saying that she had been hanged under the “eye-for-an-eye” law, because Sarbandi’s family would not forgive her due to her claims that portrayed the doctor as a rapist. They could have saved the young woman’s life by accepting blood money, but they refused to do so.
The young woman was arrested in 2007 for Sarbandi’s death. According to Amnesty International, Sarbandi had once worked in Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Amnesty International says that Jabbari was placed in solitary confinement for two months after her arrest, denied access to either her lawyer or her family. The group claims Jabbari was tortured during that time. She remained in prison after her conviction, through rounds of appeals that went all the way to Iran’s Supreme Court.
The execution was originally scheduled for Sept. 30 but was delayed, perhaps in response to the public outcry against it. More than 240,000 people signed an online petition urging Iran authorities to spare Jabbari’s life. The petition described her as a young woman who Sarbandi tricked into visiting a house and then attacked. Her appeals for self-defense failed to change the premeditated murder verdict at any stage.
Iran executed over 600 people in 2013, ranking them second in the world after China for number of executions. The UN says that the country has already put to death at least 170 this year. The U.S. condemned the killing, as did Britain, Germany and a group of European parliamentarians, and Amnesty International called it “another bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record.” U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki cited “serious concerns” with the trial’s fairness and the case’s circumstances, including reports of confessions coerced under severe duress. Human rights organizations are calling Jabarri a symbol of Iran’s injustice toward women.
By Beth A. Balen