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Rights groups denounce execution in Iran

Human Rights Watch says authorities ignored a judge's stay of execution. Delara Darabi, 23, was hanged after being convicted of murder in an unfair trial, the right groups say.

May 03, 2009|Jeffrey Fleishman

CAIRO — Human rights groups on Saturday condemned Iran for executing a 23-year-old woman who they maintained had received an unfair trial when she was convicted of murder as a juvenile.

Delara Darabi was hanged Friday at Rasht Central Prison, according to Human Rights Watch, which said the woman was 17 when she was coerced into pleading guilty to killing her father's cousin. She later recanted, saying her 19-year-old boyfriend had committed the crime.

The rights organization said a top Iranian judge had agreed to a two-month stay of execution, but other law enforcement authorities reportedly ignored the decision.

"It appears that Iran's head of judiciary has no ability to control even his own judges," said Zama Coursen-Neff, deputy director of the children's rights division at Human Rights Watch. "This is an outrageous violation of Iranian as well as international human rights law, and a callous affront to basic human dignity."

The Darabi case drew international attention from groups that have been lobbying for years to persuade Iran to stop executing suspects found guilty of capital crimes when they were juveniles. Tehran has signed a United Nations treaty banning the execution of young offenders, according to Human Rights Watch.

The agency reported that since 2005, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia have executed defendants who were minors when they were arrested.

In comments posted on Human Rights Watch's website, Darabi's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, said his client called her parents early Friday morning, saying that she could see the hangman's noose and telling her mother: "They are going to execute me, please save me."

The savedelara.com website said that, since her arrest in 2003, Darabi has "proven to be a remarkably poised young prisoner with an amazing talent" for painting and drawing. The artwork posted on the site is streaked with gray-black tones and eerie, sometimes ghoulish, faces that depict life on death row, including a boy standing beneath a hanging noose.

Amnesty International said it was "outraged at the execution of Delara Darabi, and particularly at the news that her lawyer was not informed about the execution, despite the legal requirement that he should receive 48 hours' notice," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of the human rights group's Middle East and North Africa program. "This appears to have been a cynical move on the part of the authorities to avoid domestic and international protests which might have saved Delara Darabi's life."

Statistics kept by Amnesty International show that Iran has executed 140 people this year and has put at least 42 juvenile offenders to death since 1990.

Darabi's boyfriend was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the case for conspiracy to commit murder.

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jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

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