Can Anyone Stop Iran From Executing This Woman?

by
Sameera Ehteram
The Government of Iran has postponed the execution of Rayhaneh Jabbari for killing a man she said was trying to sexually abuse her. However, so far it’s just a 10-day stay of execution. Her life is still in danger.

There is a campaign asking Iran to save Rayhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year-old Iranian woman who faces the death penalty for killing her assailant in self-defense. 

Here’s her predicament:

Reyhaneh Jabbari, an interior designer, has spent the last seven years of her life in prison and is now awaiting execution by hanging.

She was convicted of murdering a man named Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a doctor and a former member of the Iranian intelligence services. Jabbari killed him to avoid getting raped, which cannot be considered murder.

In 2007, Sarbandi took the 19-year-old girl to a rundown place on the pretext of getting his office renovated. Once there, he tried to overpower her with drug-laced drinks.

Reyhaneh tried to escape and in their struggle, she stabbed him in the shoulder and ran off. Sarbandi died of blood loss and she was arrested for the death.

While in custody, Reyhaneh was tortured until she confessed to the murder. The court gave her the death penalty despite the fact that lab analysis proved that the drinks Sarbandi had given her were laced with sedatives.  

Reyhaneh pleaded self defense, but was sentenced to hang for Sarbandi's death. Her lawyer has warned the sentence could be carried out within weeks.

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But there is another dimension to this story.

Morteza Sarbandi's family claims she is lying about her version of events.

His son Jalal told a newspaper that the family didn’t know the complete story, but “since Reyhaneh confessed” to killing Sarbandi, the confession is good enough for capital punishment.

He also said a man was present in the apartment where his father was stabbed to death "but she refuses to reveal his identity".

Iran's legal system gives the family of victims the right to grant clemency in capital punishment sentences, but Jalal has demanded that Jabbari must change her version of events if she hopes to live.

"Only when her true intentions are exposed and she tells the truth about her accomplice and what really went down will we be prepared to grant mercy," he said.

The Campaign to Save Reyhaneh is asking people and organizations to u promote her story and use connections or any other method to save her. There is also a petition to halt the execution.

The United Nations and several international rights groups say Jabbari's conviction was based on a false confession obtained under duress. "The Iranian authorities should review her case and refer it back to court for a retrial, ensuring that the defendant due process rights guaranteed under both Iranian law and international law."

Amnesty International feels, "Sarbandi's association with the Ministry of Intelligence may have affected the impartiality of the court's investigation."

But can she be saved?

Probably not in Iran.

Death sentences are awarded in Iran for most of the crimes and they are simply too frequent. According to the United Nations, Iran has executed at least 170 people since January 2014 and comes second in the world, after China, in terms of executions.

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In January this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran, called on the country’s government to urgently halt the abrupt surge in hangings in the country since the start of 2014.

“We are dismayed at the continued application of the death penalty with alarming frequency by the authorities, despite repeated calls for Iran to establish a moratorium on executions,” the experts said.

Their report also stated that least 40 persons had reportedly been hanged in the first two weeks of January. 625 executions, including at least 28 women and a number of political prisoners were reported to have been carried out in 2013.

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