TEHERAN – An Iranian court has cleared of murder charges a 19-year-old woman who was originally sentenced to death for killing a man she said tried to rape her, the press reported Monday.
Mahabad Fatehi, known as Nazanin, was cleared by a Teheran provincial court of premeditated murder but still ordered to pay blood money of 260 million rials (30,600 dollars) to the victim’s family, the Etemad newspaper reported.
Fatehi, whose case achieved international notoriety when it was taken up by a Canadian beauty queen of Iranian origin, said she stabbed the man in an act of self defence after he tried to rape her and her niece in March 2005.
In January last year, Fatehi was put on trial and sentenced to death by a criminal court, a verdict which was then quashed by the supreme court in an unprecedented move, the report said.
Her case then was referred to the Teheran provincial court, whose five judges cleared her of the charge with the majority of votes on Wednesday, the report said.
“˜Two bikers held me and my niece, Somayeh, and asked us a dirty favor. I stabbed Yusof and released myself and Somayeh. But Yusof attacked me again and I stabbed him again,” Fatehi said.
She maintained she had no other option but self defence, otherwise she and her niece would have been raped by the attackers.
She explained that she and her 15-year-old niece had gone out with two other men when the attackers trapped them in a remote location outside Teheran.
In January 2005, after seven years of legal wrangling, the Iranian judiciary acquitted a woman who killed a senior police officer she said had attempted to rape her on the Gulf island of Kish.
According to the current Iranian law, which is under modification, a boy can be executed from the age of 15, and a girl from the age of nine. However, the execution is in practice normally carried out when the offender is over 18 years old.
The European Union and international human rights groups have been pressuring Iran to stop executing those under age 18, and the UN General Assembly has adopted a non-binding resolution denouncing the practice of executing minors in Iran.
Iran’s ultra-conservative judiciary has responded to critics by saying minors are not executed in the Islamic republic. It has also proposed a law that would prohibit the death penalty or flagellation for those who were minors at the time of the crimes.
Last year at least 154 people were executed in Iran according to an AFP tally based on press and witness reports.