Iran: The last executioner of children

January 1, 2011

Iran: The last executioner of children

The case was heard unusually quickly by the Supreme Court in Tehran, which upheld the death sentence. According to reports, Judge Rezaie personally took the case to the Supreme Court, which heard the case in one day. The Supreme Court verdict, filmed by the BBC, read: "Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, age 22, daughter of Safar. Since she has confessed to this crime, and it is her fourth time, we issue the verdict of execution. Execution will take place in a public place in Neka, so that the public may learn from it."

According to eyewitnesses, as Atefeh Sahaaleh was taken to the crane for execution, she repeatedly asked Allah for forgiveness. Judge Rezaie, who had passed the death sentence on her and then, according to reports, had been instrumental in taking the case to the Supreme Court, tied the noose around her neck. When asked later why the case was rushed, Judge Rezaie was reported to have said that, in his opinion, there was too much "immorality" in Neka.

Atefeh Sahaaleh’s father was not informed that his daughter was going to be executed that day, and found out from a family member after the event. He was therefore denied the opportunity to say goodbye to his daughter.

The mistake about Atefeh Sahaaleh’s age only came to light after the execution when her family received her personal effects and death certificate.

Shadi Sadr, a leading human rights defender and lawyer, lodged a complaint against Judge Rezaie for wrongful execution on behalf of Atefeh Sahaaleh’s family. Three years on, no decision has yet been made regarding this complaint.

Iman Farrokhi
Iman Farrokhi was executed in Tehran on 19 January 2005 for a crime committed when he was 17 years old. He was accused of fatally stabbing Mohammad Ali Ghasemzadeh while hiking in the mountains outside Tehran in October 2000. Iman Farrokhi reportedly fled the scene, but was arrested on 21 November 2000. He was detained at a youth detention facility, but escaped in February 2001.47

In November 2002, Iman Farrokhi was sentenced to three years in prison for carrying an illegal weapon and theft, and was transferred to a prison in Jiroft, southern Iran. This case led to his identification, as a result of which he was brought to trial before a children’s court in Tehran for the murder. Iman Farrokhi reportedly confessed to killing Mohammad Ali Ghasemzadeh and was sentenced to 80 lashes for the consumption of alcohol, and to qesas for murder.48 In 2004, the death sentence was upheld by Branch 4 of the Supreme Court.

Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari
Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari, both Iranian Arabs, were publicly hanged in a square in Mashhad on 19 July 2005. Amnesty International believes that Mahmoud Asgari was 15 or 16 and Ayaz Marhoni was 16 or 17 at the time of the crime. Both were flogged 228 times before their execution. The true nature of their alleged crime is disputed.

Photographs of the two boys being transported to their execution and of the execution itself were publicized around the world, and prompted international condemnation. One photo shows them crying while being interviewed by journalists en route to their hanging. Another shows the boys blindfolded, standing on a truck underneath metal gallows, with two masked men standing behind them, fixing the nooses around their necks. Another shows them dangling from the crane. Witnesses said it took around 20 minutes for Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari to die, and a large crowd appears to have watched the execution.

The official report, covered in the daily Quds newspaper and the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) website, states that they were convicted of "homosexual acts by coercion",49 understood to be the rape of a 13-year-old boy. They were also convicted of drinking alcohol, theft and causing public disorder, for which they were sentenced to flogging. Quds newspaper contained a detailed account, apparently based on statements by the 13-year-old boy’s father, of his son’s rape at knifepoint.50 Mahmoud Asgari was also reported to have been convicted of extortion and assault with a knife, and Ayaz Marhoni of intentional wounding. For these offences they were sentenced to fines and terms of imprisonment. They were executed before serving their prison sentences.