TEHRAN — An Iranian woman convicted of murder for killing a
doctor she said had tried to rape her was executed on Saturday morning, despite
international condemnation of what Western human rights organizations described
as a miscarriage of justice and efforts by the Iranian president to commute her
The woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, 26, admitted during her trial in 2009 that she had
killed Dr. Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, 47, a physician and a former employee of
the Ministry of Intelligence, but insisted that she had done so in self-defense.
The case attracted considerable attention in the West, where human rights
organizations organized campaigns declaring Ms. Jabbari innocent of murder and
said she was a symbol of injustice toward women. In Iran, where many distrust
the hard-line judiciary, which is known for its mass trials and televised
confessions, the case provoked much debate.
According to news reports about the trial, Ms. Jabbari, then 19, met Dr.
Sarbandi in 2007 in an ice-cream parlor in Tehran, where he overheard her saying
she worked as an interior designer. She made an appointment to visit his
practice to assess a possible renovation, though what happened afterward is
unclear. Some local websites say they saw each other a couple of other times
before Dr. Sarbandi was killed on July 7.
That day, Ms. Jabbari had a knife in her bag, which she testified she had bought
two days earlier for her protection. A police interrogator told the semiofficial
news agency Mehr in August that the victim had been stabbed in the back while on
his prayer rug and had collapsed while running down a staircase shouting,
“Thief! Thief!” Ms. Jabbari was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced
The United Nations office for human rights said there was evidence that Ms.
Jabbari’s conviction was based on a confession coerced under the threat of
torture. The death sentence against her prompted widespread denunciations, and
President Hassan Rouhani’s centrist government tried to get the sentence
repealed. The justice minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, said in early October
that efforts to repeal the sentence were underway and that a “good ending” was
in sight, although under the Iranian Constitution, his office has no power over
After the execution on Saturday, the prosecutor’s office in Tehran said in a
statement that Ms. Jabbari had been hanged under Iran’s “eye-for-an-eye” law
because the victim’s family had refused to forgive her, saying that the local
news media had portrayed Dr. Sarbandi as a rapist.
According to the statement, the fact that Ms. Jabbari had brought a knife to the
meeting with Dr. Sarbandi, and that he had been stabbed in the back, indicated
that she had intended to murder him. The statement also said that Ms. Jabbari
had sent one of her friends a text message on the night of the doctor’s death
saying, “I will kill tonight.”
During the trial, Ms. Jabbari said an accomplice had killed Dr. Sarbandi, but
she later retracted that claim.
In a statement before the hanging, Amnesty International said that the
investigation had been “deeply flawed” and that Ms. Jabbari’s claims “do not
appear to have ever been properly investigated.” Iran ranks second after China
in the number of executions, with over 600 people executed in 2013.