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Blinded by acid, now denied compensation for showing her attacker mercy

Iranian woman spares assailant a similar fate – only for courts to take away payout

A woman blinded and horrifically disfigured in an acid attack by a spurned admirer is suing Iran's judiciary after accusing senior officials of cheating her out of compensation when she agreed to spare her attacker from a similar fate.

Ameneh Bahrami, 34, suffered severe injuries to her eyes, face and hands when a former university classmate, Majid Movahedi, threw acid in her face after she rejected his advances. In November 2008, a criminal court in Tehran ordered Movahedi to be blinded in both eyes under Iran's application of the sharia code of qisas, which allows retribution for violent crimes.

But he was given an eleventh hour reprieve in July when Ms Bahrami exercised her right to pardon him. Prison officials had been preparing to drop acid into his eyes when the pardon was delivered.

Ms Bahrami says she is paying the price for her leniency after being told by judiciary officials that she no longer had the right to compensation, which Movahedi was ordered to pay when he was sentenced.

After being pardoned, Movahedi's sentence was reduced to 10 years in prison and five years exiled in a remote area. The sentence no longer requires him to pay compensation, something Ms Bahrami is now disputing.

"Even though I agreed to pardon Mr Movahedi, I didn't think I was surrendering my right to compensation," Ms Bahrami said. "My request for compensation was recognised as legal by the judiciary officials at the time. But then the deputy prosecutor said he had made a mistake and that my request for compensation had no legal grounds."

Ms Bahrami says she needs the money to pay for extensive plastic surgery to repair her injuries. She has already spent more than £150,000 – partly funded by the Iranian state – on treatment in Barcelona. But further treatment is needed.

After being told that pardoning Movahedi meant she was no longer entitled to compensation, Ms Bahrami says she was persuaded by Tehran's deputy prosecutor, Feridoun Amirabadi, to sign a document limiting her claim to injuries to her hands and face.

Now she has been told by a lawyer that the prosecutor's ruling unlawful. She has responded by opening legal proceedings against Mr Amirabadi for abuse of trust and depriving her of her legal rights. "I didn't know the regulations and didn't think the prosecutor would lie to me. I signed the paper based on the given false information," Ms Bahrami said. "If Majid Movahedi walks out of prison without paying the compensation money for my eyes, it means I have been subjected to injustice."

Ms Bahrami is also demanding meetings with Iranian parliamentarians to discuss women's compensation rights. Under Iran's Islamic penal code, women are entitled to only half that of men.

Days after pardoning Movahedi, she was visited at her parents' home by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who offered money to cover one third of her treatment expenses. Ms Bahrami says the offer was then withdrawn by an aide accompanying the president, who said "it needed to be studied".

Although the government of former president Mohammad Khatami provided some money for treatment, Ms Bahrami says she is forced to earn the rest by taking part in documentaries made by foreign television channels.

She recently published her autobiography, Eye for an Eye, in Germany, and will record a second volume recounting events after she pardoned her attacker.

Noushin Hoseiny is a broadcast journalist with Radio Farda, the Farsi-language service of RFE/RL