• Murder confession was made at age 17 but later withdrawn
Human rights groups have renewed attacks on Iran's policy of executing juvenile offenders after a woman painter was hanged for a murder allegedly committed when she was 17. Delara Darabi was hanged in Rasht prison yesterday despite having apparently won a temporary stay of her sentence last month from Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
Campaigners say she was executed without her family or lawyer being informed 48 hours in advance as Iranian law requires.
Darabi, 22, had spent five years in jail after being convicted of murdering her father's wealthy female cousin. She initially confessed to the crime but later insisted that her boyfriend carried out the murder to steal the 65-year-old woman's money. The boyfriend persuaded her to confess, she claimed, by convincing her she would not be executed because of her age.
On death row, Darabi developed a love of painting and completed several works that depicted her incarceration and asserted her innocence. A collection of her art was displayed at an exhibition in Tehran by supporters campaigning to free her. Darabi's lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, had appealed against the sentence, arguing that her conviction had been based solely on her confession and that her trial had failed to consider vital evidence.
Mohammad Mostafei, an Iranian lawyer campaigning against the death penalty, told Human Rights Watch that Darabi was visited by her parents the day before her execution and told them she was confident her appeal would be heard. But on Friday morning she phoned them saying she was about to be executed and pleaded with them to save her life. Mostafei said a prison official then came on the line and told her parents: "We will easily execute your daughter and there's nothing you can do about it."
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say Iran executes the most juvenile offenders of any country, in breach of the UN convention on the rights of the child, which forbids the death penalty for crimes committed under the age of 18.
Lawyers estimate 130 prisoners are on death row in Iran for offences committed as minors. Campaigners accuse the country of attempting to hide the practice by waiting until offenders pass the age of 18 before executing them.