"I asked him what I could do to stop him from hurting my sister. He said, 'It is very simple Just sign that you bought the knife before the murder.' So I signed it and breathed a sigh of relief." — Reyhaneh Jabbari, letter from prison.
"One goal of the regime is to stop activists from campaigning: it brings unwanted attention to the serious human rights violations, especially now when the regime is trying to convince the world that the Islamic Republic is no longer a radical government." — Mina Ahadi, founder of the International Committee Against Executions.
Reyhaneh Jabbari, now 26, was sentenced to death for killing Morteza Sarbandi, a former Iranian intelligence officer. According to her letters from prison, however, during interrogations when she was 19, she was tortured until she confessed to murdering Sarbandi.
Jabbari has written from prison about the day of the attack, her interrogations, torture and the fate of other female prisoners:
As soon as I arrived at the Police Headquarters three large men were waiting for me in a small room. As soon as I entered, they handcuffed me to a chair and made me sit on the floor... They took turns screaming, "You think you are smart? People more important than you have been broken here. You insect, who do you think you are? Answer every question loudly...
I could feel something on my back and my skin swelling getting ripped. I felt a burning sensation and screamed until my ears hurt from the sound of my own screams. I did not hear the lash of the whip. I do not know if they were beating me with a whip, a rope or a piece of wood. I never learned what those three monsters were burning me with. I could only hear myself screaming. With my hands tied higher than my body to the chair, the pain and burning made my arms numb...
Winter was cold this year; it coincided with the prison's heating system breaking down. In our ward, all you could hear was chattering teeth, coughing, sneezing.... The chattering teeth reminded me of 2007, when I was 19, in solitary confinement, with wounds all over my body, and shaking from anxiety and fear ... I was questioned mostly by two men whose names I never found out. They would dictate [my confession] and I would write. Once they took me somewhere for interrogation where I saw a 14 or 15 year old girl hanging from the ceiling from her wrists. The girl was pale, her lips were cracked. She was whimpering.
[In another room,] the interrogator sat across from me and said that today or tomorrow they would go get my little sister... He referred to her by name: Badook. "It is her turn," he said. "She is frail, thin ... How long do you think she will last hanging like that one?" He began telling me in detail what he was going to do in front of me to my little sister ... I started crying and begged him not to do such a thing. He said he had no alternative. I asked him what I could do to stop him from hurting my sister. He said: "It is very simple. Just confess that you bought the knife before the murder". ... So I wrote that I had bought the knife beforehand, signed the paper and breathed a sigh of relief.
Jabbari has said that Sarbandi had lured her to an apartment in July 2007, when she was 19, with the promise of an interior design job. When they arrived, according to her, Sarbandi locked the door and attempted to rape her. After a struggle, she saw a knife in the kitchen and stabbed him once in the shoulder. He later died in the hospital.
As Islamic courts do not recognize self-defense, especially from a woman, Reyhaneh was charged with first degree murder. The files from the court case are said to have gone missing.
On April 14, 2014, Ahmad Shaheed, a UN Special Rapporteur, asked for a stay of her execution -- one day before her scheduled hanging. Shaheed also asked Iranian authorities for a review of the case, including a retrial and a request that the courts adhere to International standards for a fair trial.
Perhaps fearing further exposure of a corrupt and illegal judicial system -- which includes sham trials and the systematic use of torture, the Islamic Republic postponed Reyhaneh's execution and announced a review of her case.
The prepared confession also indicates that Jabbari had been intimately involved with many male classmates and co-workers, presumably to portray her as a woman of loose, un-Islamic morals.
A petition to save Reyhaneh Jabbari from execution has been hacked twice, presumably by the agents of the Iranian government. Mina Ahadi, one of the organizers of a campaign to save Reyhaneh Jabbari and the founder of International Committee Against Executions, stated,
This is a well known tactic used by Iranian authorities when a campaign creates a lot of attention internationally. The hackers have managed for the past few weeks to reduce the number of signatures on the petition. The authorities have also threatened Reyhaneh's family in Iran and asked them to cut ties with the campaigners and to stop advocating their daughter's freedom.
They have done this before, most notably with Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi, who was sentenced to be stoned but is now free ... One goal of the regime is to stop activists from campaigning: it brings unwanted attention to the Islamic Republic's serious human rights violations, especially now when the regime is trying to convince the world that the Islamic Republic is no longer a radical government.
Although Reyhaneh's execution was postponed, her death sentence has not been officially overturned by the authorities. She is still in danger of being hanged. Reyhaneh's sentence must be reversed.