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June 5, 2008

Iran Sentences Juvenile Offender to Death, Defies International Treaties

Washington, DC – Iranian citizen Mohammad Feda’i faces execution for a murder he committed in reported self-defense when he was 17 years old.  According to an alert by Amnesty International, Feda’i was “convicted after an unfair trial” in which his testimony was inadequately reviewed and for which he did not have full and fair legal representation. “As a state party to both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Iran has undertaken not to execute juvenile offenders: those convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18,” Amnesty International reports.  The judges’ written verdict acknowledged that Feda’i committed murder in self-defense and did not have “adequate” representation.  Yet, the judges handed down a death sentence in the same document.

According to Amnesty’s report, Feda’i was out with friends in the town of Robat Karim in April 2004, when he suddenly found himself attempting to break up a fight with another group of young men, a fight initiated by one of his friends.  Feda’i testified that a boy named Said began to hit him with a piece of wood, and as Feda’i fell to the ground, he stabbed Said once in self-defense with a knife given to him by one of his friends.  The stab was fatal, and Feda’i was tried and sentenced to death in March 2005. (For Amnesty’s full report, click here.)

Feda’i’s legal representation was only able to submit one written testimony before the verdict was announced.  An appeal to the Supreme Court upheld the verdict and a Fedai’s recent request for a retrial was rejected.

Cases of juvenile execution are not uncommon in Iran.  “Iran holds the deplorable distinction of leading the world in juvenile executions,” Human Rights Watch reported in June 2007.  Iran upholds Islamic penal code, under which a criminal can be sentenced to qisas, or retribution, in proportion to the crime committed.  If the crime is murder, the punishment is execution, a principle that juvenile offenders are held accountable to.  Shari’a law states that it is the right of the victim’s family to either seek this retribution or pardon the criminal, in which case they may seek financial compensation instead.

“Iran’s highest judicial authorities have repeatedly upheld death sentences handed down to juvenile offenders charged with committing crimes when they were as young as 15,” according to Human Rights Watch.  Legislation introduced in the Majles that would reduce, although not eliminate, the possibility of juvenile executions, has been pending since July 2006. 

Information on how to send appeals to Iranian authorities calling for a commutation of Feda’i’s death sentence and fair review of his case can be found under “Recommended Action” in Amnesty’s alert

“The Iranian-American community is deeply concerned about Iran’s deteriorating human rights record, particularly the execution of juvenile offenders,” said Babak Talebi, NIAC’s Director of Community Relations. “The execution of juveniles, many of whom do not receive fair trials, is simply unacceptable.”

 

 

 

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