A teenage girl with a mental age of eight is facing the death penalty for prostitution in Iran. The trial comes only four months after the hanging of another mentally ill girl for sex before marriage in a case that has prompted a human rights lawyer to prepare a charge of wrongful execution against the presiding judge.
The girl, known as Leyla M, is in prison while the Supreme Court decides on her “acts contrary to chastity”, among the most serious charges under Iranian law. Under the penal code, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be executed.
In an interview on a Persian-language website, the 19-year-old says she was forced into prostitution by her mother at the age of eight. Amnesty International refers to reports that say she was repeatedly raped, bore her first child aged nine and was passed from pimp to pimp before having another three children.
She told the website: “The first time I was taken to a man’s house by my mum I was eight. It was a horrible night and I cried a lot but then my mum came the next day and took me home. She bought me chocolate and cheese curls.”
Iranian press reports say Leyla was charged with controlling a brothel, having sex with blood relatives and bearing an illegitimate child. Amnesty says the court refused to admit social workers’ evidence of her young mental age and convicted her on the basis of confessions.
Her prosecution echoes the fate of an even younger girl, Atefeh Rajabi, executed in August. In her case a judge known as Hajj Rezai reportedly put the noose around her neck himself after convicting her on the basis of her confessions for the fourth time in two years. She begged for her life while being led to the gallows, shouting “repentance”.