Zeinab Sekaanvand is incarcerated in Iran, charged with killing her husband when she was 17, and awaiting execution by hanging. The 22-year-old initially admitted to the murder but later recanted, saying instead that her brother-in-law had committed the crime and that she had confessed under duress. Her case is now being championed by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, in the belief that she did not receive a fair trial and concerned by Iran’s record of executing juvenile offenders.
Sekaanvand ran away from her small village in northern Iran when she was 15 and eloped, but alleges that soon afterward her husband began physically and verbally abusing her. Human rights groups say she sought help from the police, but that they failed to investigate. Her husband refused her a divorce, and her conservative parents had by then disowned her for eloping.
According to Amnesty International, Sekaanvand was not provided a lawyer and was beaten repeatedly while detained in a police station for almost three weeks, before confessing. She later told the court her brother-in-law — who she said had raped her multiple times — was the killer. She said he proposed a deal whereby he would pardon her (as he was entitled under Islamic law in Iran) and collect financial compensation, in lieu of her serving time in prison. Instead, she was given a death sentence.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups — who believe Sekaanvand’s trial and investigation did not meet international human rights standards — are urging supporters to tweet using #SaveZeinab, and to write to the Iranian government to voice their concerns. Even if found guilty in a fair trial, the circumstances of the crime do not warrant a death sentence, Mansoureh Mills told NPR, as executing someone who was a minor at the time of the offense contravenes international treaties, signed by Iran. “And yet, Iran is one of the leading executioners of juvenile cases,” said Mills.
Sekaanvand’s mistreatment in custody has continued, according to Mills. After she was sentenced, her execution was postponed because she had married another prisoner and conceived a child. Her pregnancy made it unlawful to kill her. Last month, she gave birth to a stillborn baby, was immediately sent back to prison, and did not receive adequate postnatal care, said Mills.
Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a Jordan-based rights activist from Equality Now, said Sekaanvand was repeatedly failed by authorities — in not investigating her claims of marital abuse, or when her brother-in-law allegedly raped her, or giving her a fair trial.
No announcement has yet been made of an official date for her hanging.
Read the full story at NPR.