Amnesty International has urged the Iranian authorities to halt the execution of a 22-year-old woman accused of murdering her husband at the age of 17.
Zeinab Sekaanvand is due to be executed by hanging as soon as Thursday 13 October, after what Amnesty International has described as a “grossly unfair trial”.
Ms Sekaanvand was arrested on February 2012 for the murder of her husband, whom she married at the age of 15.
She subsequently became pregnant after forming a relationship with a fellow prisoner while in custody, but delivered a stillborn child on 30 September.
Now Iranian authorities have told her she will be executed in the next couple of weeks as she is no longer pregnant.
According to Amnesty International, following Ms Sekaanvand's initial arrest she was held in a police station for 20 days, where she says she was beaten by male police officers. She “confessed” that she stabbed her husband after he’d subjected her to months of physical and verbal abuse and had repeatedly refused her requests for divorce.
In her subsequent trial she was denied access to a lawyer during the entire pre-trial detention period and only met her state-appointed lawyer for the first time at her final trial session on 18 October 2014, when she retracted “confessions” made when she’d had no access to legal representation.
Ms Sekaanvand told the court that her husband’s brother, who she said had raped her several times, was responsible for the murder and had coerced her into “confessing”, promising he would pardon her.
This statement was ignored by the court, which instead relied heavily on her “confessions” to reach its verdict. Two years later the Criminal Court of West Azerbaijan Province sentenced Ms Sekaanvand to death.
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director, Philip Luther, has described the case as "extremely disturbing" and condemned the continued use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders in Iran.
Mr Luther said: “This is an extremely disturbing case. Not only was Zeinab Sekaanvand under 18 years of age at the time of the crime, she was also denied access to a lawyer and says she was tortured after her arrest by male police officers through beatings all over her body.
“Iran’s continued use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders displays the authorities’ contempt even for commitments they themselves have signed up to. The Iranian authorities must immediately quash Zeinab Sekaanvand’s conviction and grant her a fair retrial without recourse to the death penalty.”
The Iranian courts reportedly failed to apply juvenile sentencing guidelines from Iran’s Islamic penal code and order a forensic report to assess Ms Sekaanvand's “mental growth and maturity” at the time of the crime. They are also said to have failed to inform her that she could submit an “application for retrial”.
Despite being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which outlaws the use of the death penalty on a person who was under 18 when they committed a capital offence, Iran has executed at least one child in 2016.
Another 49 people who were children when they committed their offence are currently said to be on death row in the country.
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