Child bride to be executed despite retracting murder confession

Amnesty International wants Iranian officials to stop the execution of a 22-year-old woman accused of killing her husband when she was just 17.
Amnesty International wants Iranian officials to stop the execution of a 22-year-old woman accused of killing her husband when she was just 17.

Amnesty International is pleading with Iranian authorities to stop the execution of a 22-year-old woman accused of killing her husband when she was just 17.

After what was dubbed a "grossly unfair trial", Zeinab Sekaanvand is due to be executed by hanging on Thursday. She was arrested in 2012 for the murder of her husband, whom she married when she was just 15 years old.

It is understood that Sekaanvand was held in a police station for 20 days after her arrest, where she says, according to Amnesty International, she was beaten by male police officers.

The young woman "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.

Zeinab Sekaanvand will be executed in the next few days.
Zeinab Sekaanvand will be executed in the next few days.

Amnesty International said her subsequent trial was "grossly unfair", as she was denied access to a lawyer during her entire pre-trial detention period and only met her state-appointed lawyer for the first time at her final trial session on October 18, 2014. At this session she retracted "confessions" made when she'd had no access to legal representation.

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.

Under Islamic law, murder victims' relatives have the power to pardon the offender and accept financial compensation instead.

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 Sekaanvand to death.

Sekaanvand became pregnant while behind bars, after reportedly forming a relationship with a fellow prisoner. But she delivered a stillborn child on September 30, meaning Iranian authorities have the go-ahead for her execution because she is no longer pregnant.

"This is an extremely disturbing case," Philip Luther from Amnesty International said in a statement.

"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."

Another 49 people who were children when they committed their offence are said to be on death row in the country.

- news.com.au

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