17 April, 2007

Help stop the execution of Delara Darabi




Yesterday,Amnesty International UK launched a new UK web appeal in the Sunday Mirror on behalf of a 20-year-old woman artist facing execution in Iran You can help with some campaigning by blogging about this web appeal. Please go to :

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=78

and write to the Iranian authorities, imploring them to stop the execution of Delara Darabi, who was just 17 at the time of her alleged crime.


Delara Darabi and her 19-year-old boyfriend Amir Hossein reportedly went to a woman’s house in 2003, where Amir Hossein allegedly killed the woman. Delara initially confessed to the murder, but subsequently retracted her confession. Delara says that Amir Hossein asked her to admit responsibility for the murder to protect him from execution, believing that as she was under the age of 18, she could not be sentenced to death.

Amnesty members around the world are urgently campaigning to stop Delara’s execution. You can link to Amnesty press release here.

There’s also an active online campaign for Delara on MySpace with background material and pics of Delara, and an online petition too

Much of Delara’s artwork was painted while she was in prison, awaiting execution and can be seen online at Flickr.

Iran executes more known child offenders than any other country, and, in 2006, Iran and Pakistan were the only countries in the world to continue to execute child offenders. At least 28 child offenders remain on death row in Iran and the country is known to have executed four child offenders last year.

Iin the past, Iran has commuted death sentences after international outcry, so we think this campaign could really make a difference. Hope you can help in any way you can – we’ll let you know if we hear any developments.


THE YOUNG GIRL FACING A PUBLIC HANGING
EXCLUSIVE Condemned to death at 17 in Iran for murder she didn't commit
By Justine Smith 15/04/2007

HER only crime was always to be too trusting, ready to do anything she could to help someone else.

Now Delara Delrabi is facing the ultimate price for such blind faith... being hanged for a murder she did not commit and joining a growing number of children executed by Iran.

For three long years, ever since she was 17, Delara has languished on Death Row in Rasht Prison in Gilanin Province.

Each morning she doesn't know if this will be the day she will be marched off to the town's dusty square to be left dangling by a rope from the end of a crane.

Living with such uncertainty has already driven Delara to one attempted suicide when she slashed her wrists.

"Every night Delara goes to sleep with the shadow of the execution rope on her neck," says her father Saeed Darabi, who has campaigned tirelessly for her release.

"My daughter should have spent the last three years studying to be a doctor, not stuck in a prison cell for a murder she did not do. It breaks my heart."

How Delara ended on Death Row is a story of young love and a would-be robbery that ended in a bloodbath.

Amir Hossein was Delara's first proper boyfriend, 19, handsome, a little bit dangerous and something of a catch.

She knew her parents would not approve of the charismatic Hossein and their two-month relationship remained a closelyguarded secret. Yet Delara was so enthralled by Hossein that she didn't suspect anything when he asked her to go with him to the home of a distant female relative.

Hossein wanted to see the deeds to the woman's house, possibly to claim it was actually his. Soon there was an argument. Delara could only scream in horror as Hossein pulled out a knife and launched a frenzied attack, stabbing the woman up to 20 times.

As Hossein realised what he had done, he turned to Delara for help. He told her she could not be executed because of her age. Besotted Delara agreed, and said she had carried out the stabbing.

She quickly retracted the confession as the enormity of the crime dawned on her. It was too late. A judge sentenced her to death, ignoring the fact Iran has signed up to an international treaty banning execution of offenders aged under 18.

Hossein betrayed her with his silence and was let off with a 10-year sentence as an accomplice.

Delara's family were stunned when they first learned of the murder through a friend who asked for money to help her flee the country with Hossein.

Mr Darabi said: "I refused and took them both to the police station myself. I did not even know Delara had been seeing Hossein and only found out later they had known each other for a couple of months.

"I never thought Delara would be found guilty of murder. When they went to that house, she was not aware of Hossein's intentions to commit murder. She wanted to run away, but he'd already locked the door."

Mr Darabi said he was not surprised Delara had made a false confession to try to save Hossein.

HE said: "Delara was a calm and sensitive girl, especially towards her friends and family. Whenever there was conflict between her sisters she would always take the blame, even if it was not her fault.

"Children receive money as a gift for the Persian New Year. Delara used hers to buy clothes and shoes for the poor."

Delara now spends her time confined 24 hours a day in a filthy, cramped cell.

Severely malnourished, she now weighs under six stone and as well as bleeding ulcers she suffers nervous tension and depression.

Her one escape is her paintings which also reveal the depths of her despair. In the first months of her imprisonment, she painted bright landscapes and was known as 'the prisoner of colours". Then when paints were confiscated she used coal and her fingernails to express her agony in dark images of a life without colour and of visions of death.

In a poem accompanying an exhibition of her work smuggled out and now being shown around the world to highlight her plight, she writes:

"For three years, I've struggled for my rights to no avail and I have screamed my innocence to ears that are deaf at best.

"I believe that creation is born of strained circumstances: strained humanity, strained finances, strained emotions.

"After all, one learns to paddle for survival only when fear of drowning has set in. I am no exception to this rule."

Mr Darabi is now hoping a retrial will save his daughter's life and is putting his trust in an international campaign to put pressure on Iran.

"This is the only thing that is keeping us alive now," he said. "With the support of people in the UK, we believe we can win a retrial which will prove Delara's innocence."

Delara's fate lies in the hands of one man, Iran's judicial head Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi. If he upholds the decision taken by Iran's Supreme Court in June last year, she will be the 13th child offender to be executed in Iran in three years.

Saeed has written a personal appeal to the Ayatollah saying: "Mr Shahroudi, you have children yourself so please help her. Delara's bad emotional state has already left her close to death as she has attempted suicide in jail. Please do not allow her to disappear little by little for a crime she never committed."

Amnesty International have launched a petition calling on the Ayatollah to grant a retrial.

UK Director Kate Allen said: "This appeal can make a real difference. The Iranian authorities have previously stopped executions after an international outcry. We think Delara's life could be saved if we keep up the pressure. The death penalty is wrong in all cases, but it's beyond belief when it comes to children. Delara was only 17 when this crime took place."

The Darabi family was not even allowed to attend the hearing when she was sentenced to death. But Mr Darabi was still shocked by the verdict as the evidence in her defence was so strong.

DEFENCE lawyer Abdolsamad Khormashahi told the court Delara was left-handed and the wounds were inflicted by someone who was right-handed.

He also said she did not have the strength to stab the woman 20 times, as each wound was quite deep.

He said: "There is evidence already in the police file to prove Delara's innocence. I have frequently requested a re-enactment of the crime scene because this can clear many ambiguities and prove Delara's innocence. I just do not know why this has never been done."

At least 28 child offenders remain on Death Row in Iran, which has the worst record in the world for executing under-18s.

Iranian-born model Nazanin Afshin Jam, the Miss World 2003 runner-up, who has campaigned tirelessly with the group Stop Child Executions, said: "Iran is the only country in the world that officially continues to execute minors.

"This is despite the fact they've signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Charter of the Rights of the Child, which specifically gives a commitment they won't execute under-18s. Iran misinterprets these laws and instead of granting a pardon they wait until these children turn 18 and then carry out the death sentence, either by hanging or stoning depending on the crime."

Ironically, shortly before releasing the 15 British sailors held captive by Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lectured the world on respect for family values.

Talking about Leading Seaman Faye Turney, he said: "How can you justify seeing a mother away from her home, her children? Why don't they respect family values in the West? Why is there no respect for motherhood, for the love of her child?"

Under Iran's Sharia law, girls are treated as adults from nine and boys from 15.

Recent executions include the hanging in 2004 of Atefeh Rajabi, 16, who had learning difficulties, for having sex with an older man. Her body was left hanging in public as an example to other teenage girls.

Teenage boys Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were given 228 lashes each before being hanged for drinking, disturbing the peace and theft.

Philip Alston, head of the United Nations body that monitors capital punishment, said: "The execution of juveniles in Iran is completely unacceptable. The government of Iran must immediately commute all death sentences imposed for crimes individuals committed before the age of 18."

To sign Amnesty's petition go to www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty. For more info go to www.stopchildexecutions.com

news@sundaymirror.co.uk

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