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Iran: Another Execution of Juvenile Offender

Hanging of Behnoud Shojaie Is Third in 2009


Iran hanged juvenile offender Behnoud Shojaie on October 12, 2009,
despite an unequivocal international ban on such executions, and an
initial pardon by the victim's family, Human Rights Watch said today.
Shojaie, now 21, was executed for a killing that he committed in 2005,
when he was 17 years old.

The father and mother of the victim, Ehsan Nasrollahi, implemented
the punishment themselves at Evin prison, despite their initial pardon.

"The Iranian Judiciary's enthusiasm to execute juvenile offenders
despite its international obligations and objections in Iran itself to
such brutal acts is shocking," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and
North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This is a callous affront
to basic human dignity."

Iranian government officials arranged for Shojaie's execution
despite a stay of execution issued by Sadegh Ardeshir Larijani, Iran's
new head of the Judiciary, on August 19. According to his lawyer,
Mohammad Mostafaei, Shojaie had walked to the noose six times since the
Supreme Court upheld his sentence in 2007, with a last minute reprieve
on each occasion.

Shojaie killed Ehsan Nasrollahi during a fight in 2005, when he was
17 years old. He testified during his trial that Nasrollahi intended to
attack him with a knife and he defended himself with a piece of broken
glass. Shojaie's attorneys said in his defense during the trial that
their client had committed involuntary manslaughter, requesting a
sentence of payment of blood money (dieh) instead of execution. The prosecutor refused, accusing Shojaie of inflicting multiple wounds on the victim.

Iran is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 37 of the convention explicitly prohibits sentencing
individuals to death for crimes they committed under the age of 18.

The court issued Shojaie's death sentence despite a 2004 order by
then-Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi banning death
sentences for individuals convicted of crimes committed under the age
of 18.

Shojaie's lawyer Mostafaei described his last minutes:

"There was a large crowd outside the prison. Many people were
begging Ehsan Nasrollahi's parents to forgive Behnoud. They said they
would forgive him, and the atmosphere calmed down considerably. There
were about 300 people there. We went inside and they prepared for the
execution. They brought Behnoud in. He fell at the feet of Ehsan's
parents and begged them to forgive him. He told Ehsan's mother that he
had lost his own mother, and wished her to act as his mother and spare
him from execution. Ehsan's mother then said that she must see the
noose around his neck. They took us to a hall and they put the noose
around his neck. There were a lot of people there, appealing to the
family to forgive Behnoud. The victim's parents pulled the stool from
under Behnoud's feet. He didn't breathe. His family was waiting
outside. Up until Ehsan's mother pulled the stool from under Behnoud's
feet, I kept thinking all she wanted to do was to see the noose around
his neck. I couldn't believe it when she pulled the stool and executed

Human Rights Watch said that the hanging of Behnoud Shojaie is
Iran's third execution of a juvenile since the beginning of 2009. On
May1, Iran secretly hanged another juvenile offender despite a flawed
trial and a stay of execution. Delara Darabi, 22, was executed for a killing that she allegedly committed when she was 17 years old.

On January 21, Iran executed a 21-year-old Afghan citizen, Molla Gol
Hassan, in Evin prison for a crime allegedly committed when he was 17
years old.

Iran executed at least seven juvenile offenders in 2008.

According to human rights lawyers in Iran, at least 130 juvenile
offenders are on death row. Iran leads all countries of the world in
executing juvenile offenders. Since January 2005, only four other
countries are known to have executed juvenile offenders - Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.