TEHRAN, Iran – Iran has hanged a young woman who was convicted of murder when she was a minor, her lawyer said Saturday, drawing condemnation from international human rights groups who have sought to end capital punishment for juvenile offenders.
Authorities executed the 23-year-old woman Friday in northern Iran without informing her lawyer or allowing the family to be present, said the lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei. She was 17 at the time the crime was committed, in 2003.
Iran executes more juvenile offenders than any other nation — eight last year and 42 since 1990, according to Amnesty International. Friday's was the second such execution this year in Iran, Mostafaei said.
While a few other countries are known to have executed juvenile offenders in recent years — Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and Pakistan — Iran has accounted for more than two-thirds of such executions in the past four years, according to rights groups.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Iran has signed, bans capital punishment for offenders who committed crimes before their 18th birthday.
"Iran continues to deny that it executes juvenile offenders, but the secret nature of this execution demonstrates that the government knows that these killings are illegal and shameful in the eyes of the world," said Zama Coursen-Neff, deputy director of the children's rights division at Human Rights Watch.
The prisoner executed Friday, Delara Darabi, initially pleaded guilty to killing her father's cousin, but later retracted her confession and said her boyfriend carried out the killing. She told a judge that she had initially confessed because her boyfriend told her that, as a minor, she would not be executed and she could save him from being put to death, her lawyer said.
Her boyfriend, who was 19 at the time of the killing, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in murder.
Iranian law requires authorities to inform a prisoner's lawyer at least 48 hours before an execution, but Mostafaei said he was not given warning that the sentence was to be carried out.
The lawyer said Darabi called her parents just moments before the execution. He quoted her as saying, "Oh, Mother, I see the hangman's noose in front of me. They are going to execute me. Please save me."
The woman's parents were not allowed inside the prison to meet her for a last time, Mostafaei said.
"She was denied a legal right guaranteed under the law," he said. "The hasty execution and the ignoring of legal provisions suggests that some authorities were happy to put an end to her life," he said.
Mostafaei said the execution of juvenile offenders is a "gross violation of international law" and a "breach of Iran's international obligations and commitments."
The European Union also condemned Darabi's execution, saying the punishment ran "counter to the international commitments that Iran has voluntarily accepted."
Mostafaei said the court did not seriously consider his arguments in the woman's defense.
For example, he said, Darabi was left-handed, while all the evidence suggests the crime was committed by someone who was right-handed.