Iran: The last executioner of children

January 1, 2011

Iran: The last executioner of children

At the stage of seeking permission for execution, the Assistant Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court ruled that the investigation should have been conducted by the children’s court and sent it there for investigation. Subsequently, Branch 106 of Kermanshah Criminal Court (Children) again sentenced Naser Qasemi to qesas.

The relatives of the victim want 70 million rials (approximately US$7,500) as diyeh which Naser Qasemi’s family cannot raise.

"The only face I see in front of me every day is a wall. For three years, I have been defending myself with colours, forms and words. These paintings are an oath to a crime I did not commit. Unless the colours bring me back to life, I greet you who have come to view my paintings from behind that wall." Delara Darabi©

5. Campaigning wins reprieves
Campaigning against the death penalty both inside and outside Iran has made and can make a difference. In a few cases, convictions leading to death sentences have been overturned and the person has been released. In many more, stays of execution have been won. Campaigns have also prompted the Iranian authorities to publicly comment on cases, initiate reviews of cases, order retrials and grant pardons or amnesties.

The two cases below illustrate the importance and potential impact of campaigning against the death penalty.

"I appreciate all of you, all known and unknown activists, who have tried to save her from the death penalty… Despite all her hard experiences, she is so glad for being among us… I hope we always remember the many women like Leyla who live in a critical situation in Iran."
Shadi Sadr, Leyla Mafi’s lawyer

Leyla Mafi
Leyla Mafi was arrested during a raid on a brothel when she was 17. During interrogation she reportedly confessed to having worked as a prostitute since she was a child. In around May 2004, she was sentenced to death by a court in Arak for "acts contrary to chastity" – for running a brothel, prostitution, incest and giving birth to an illegitimate child. She had a court-appointed lawyer. She was also sentenced to flogging before execution.

An E’temad journalist who interviewed Leyla Mafi in prison uncovered a tale of a childhood of forced prostitution, rape and abuse, interspersed with arrests and sentences of flogging.
Leyla Mafi was forced into prostitution by her mother when she was eight and gave birth when she was nine. At around that time, she was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution. When she was 12, her family sold her to an Afghan man to become his "temporary wife". Her mother-in-law forced her into prostitution and when she was 14 she was prosecuted and again sentenced to flogging – 100 lashes. She later gave birth to twins. Her family then sold her to a married 55-year-old man with two children, who also forced Leyla Mafi into prostitution in his home.

According to the E’temad report, social workers tested Leyla Mafi’s mental capacities on several occasions and each time found her to have the mental age of an eight-year-old. She had never been examined by a court-appointed doctor and was sentenced to death on the basis of her confessions, without consideration of her background or mental health.

Lawyer Shadi Sadr took up her case and an Urgent Action appeal by Amnesty International attracted widespread international media publicity. Activists inside and outside Iran campaigned against the death sentence.

In response, the Iranian authorities took the exceptional step of publicly commenting on the case, contesting Amnesty International’s information about Leyla Mafi’s age and mental capacity. They stated that she was mentally and physically normal, and that she had only been working as a prostitute as an adult. Nevertheless, on 26 December 2004, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced that Leyla Mafi’s case would be reviewed.