Hajieh Esmailvand, previously sentenced to stoning, acquitted of adultery in a re-trial and released
Hajieh Esmailvand was acquitted on 9 December 2006 of the charge of
adultery for which she had been sentenced to execution by stoning. She had been
released on bail in September 2006 pending a retrial. Ruhollah G remains at risk
of execution after being sentenced to qesas (retribution in kind) for the
murder of Hajieh Esmailvand's husband.
Ruhollah G has been flogged for unmarried sexual relations. His
execution has not been implemented because he is trying to obtain the consent of
the murder victim's relatives to forgive him and to accept the payment of
diyeh (blood money). Some of the relatives of the murder victim are under
18-years-old, at which point they can decide whether to accept the payment.
He has been detained in Jolfa prison since his arrest in 1999.
News reports in 2004 had suggested that Hajieh
Esmailvand was sentenced for having an adulterous relationship with a
17-year-old boy, Ruhollah G, and that both had been accused of murdering Hajieh
Esmailvand's husband. It is now known that in 1999, Hajieh Esmailvand defended
herself from a rape attempt at her home by a 20-year-old man known to her
husband. This is now believed to be the person named in 2004 press reports as
17-year-old Ruhollah G. Six months later, while Hajieh Esmailvand and her
children were staying with her parents in Tabriz for her child's medical
treatment, the man killed her husband during a fight. During the investigation,
the man accused Hajieh Esmailvand of being his accomplice and said they had been
having an extra-marital affair. Hajieh Esmailvand was arrested on 20 January
Hajieh Esmailvand's mother tongue
is Azerbaijani Turkic, and she is from a mainly Iranian Azerbaijani area of
Iran. She had a court-appointed lawyer during her trial. The court proceedings
against her were conducted in Persian, which she could not fully understand or
speak at the time. During her trial she explained that the alleged murderer had
attempted to rape her once, but it is believed that her statements were
misunderstood as a confession to having committed adultery. She did not know the
Persian word for "adultery".
On 25 April
2000, Branch 3 of Jolfa Public Court sentenced Hajieh Esmailvand to five years'
imprisonment, to be followed by execution by hanging. The Supreme Court
reportedly upheld her death sentence, but changed the method of execution from
hanging to stoning. Hajieh Esmailvand has said that she did not know she had
been sentenced to stoning until she asked her brother some time later, because
she did not know the Persian word for stoning. She wrote several letters to the
Head of the Judiciary, the last dated 1 June 2004, asking for a reprieve and
insisting that she was innocent and had never committed adultery.
stoning was scheduled for 1 September 2004 at the prison in Jolfa. According to
reports, leaflets were published and distributed in Jolfa by the local
Judiciary, inviting the public to participate. However, the judge responsible
for implementing the sentence found flaws in the case. The Judge reportedly
objected to the sentence because Hajieh Esmailvand did not know the meaning
of the word "adultery" and had repeatedly denied having had sexual intercourse
or committing adultery. In addition, her 'confessions' did not amount to
adultery since she had feared and fought off the man, and the trial judge did
not properly explain the basis on which he issued the stoning
Around 21 December 2004, a stay
of execution was granted by the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi. The
case was reportedly referred to the Amnesty and Clemency Commission for
decision, while Hajieh Esmailvand remained detained in Jolfa prison for nearly
two years, waiting for a decision on her case.
In mid-2006, a group of
mostly women human rights defenders (HRDs) in Iran, including activists,
journalists and lawyers, began a campaign to abolish stoning. They identified at
least 9 women and 2 men who have been sentenced to death by stoning, and lawyers
in the group took up representation of these cases, including of Hajieh
In September 2006, the
Supreme Court rejected Hajieh Esmailvand's stoning sentence, and she was
released on bail of 100 million toman (around US$100,000) pending her re-trial.
By that time, she had been imprisoned in Jolfa prison for around seven years.
The re-trial began in Jolfa Public Court in November 2006. On 9 December 2006,
Hajieh was acquitted of the charge of adultery.
conviction for being an 'accomplice to murder' has not yet been reviewed by the
Supreme Court. According to reports, her lawyer is planning to appeal this
conviction. As Hajieh Esmailvand has already served the five year prison term
that this charge carried, her release on bail is permanent.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to
arrive as quickly as possible, in Persian, Arabic, English, French or your own
- welcoming the news that Hajieh Esmailvand was acquitted of
the charge of adultery and is therefore no longer at risk of execution by
- recognizing that Iran has a responsibility to bring to justice
those suspected of criminal offences, but stating your unconditional opposition
to the use of the death penalty in all cases, and urging that the death sentence
of Ruhollah G. be commuted.
- stating your unconditional opposition to the
death penalty, as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and
violation of the right to life;
- calling for the abolition of execution by
stoning in Iran.
Leader of the Islamic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei, The Office of the
Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Salutation: Your Excellency
His Excellency Mahmoud
The Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
(via website) www.president.ir/email
Speaker of Parliament
His Excellency Gholamali Haddad Adel
Majles-e Shoura-ye Eslami, Imam
Khomeini Avenue, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
And to diplomatic
representatives of Iran accredited to your country.
APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 30 January 2007.
... Payvand News - 12/20/06 ... --