Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Delara Darabi


Age: 22
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Date of Killing: May 1, 2009
Location of Killing: Rasht, Gilan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of alleged offense: 17

About this Case

News of the execution of Ms. Delara Darabi on May 1, 2009, was announced on the official news agencies ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency) and IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency) and most newspapers in Iran such as E’temad, Khabar-e Jonub, Iran, Kayhan, Sarmayeh, and E’temad-e Melli.  Additional information was taken from interviews and articles published by Abdolsamad Khorramshahi and Mohammad Mostafa’i, Ms. Darabi’s attorneys, and Asieh Aminin, a journalist who followed this case closely. These reports were reflected in various media, such as BBC, Radio Farda, Radio Zamaneh, and their personal weblogs. (The full list of resources is at the bottom.)   

Ms. Delara Darabi  was born in Rasht on September 29, 1986. She was an artist who began painting when she was ten years old. Before her arrest, at the age of seventeen, she was a pre-college student.

During Ms. Darabi’s detention period, many artists and civil and human rights activists organized a campaign to free her. They asked the head of the Judiciary (Head of Iran’s Judiciary) to prevent her death, due to her age, her psychological condition, and various ambiguities of the case. An exhibition of this young woman’s paintings in September of 2006 attracted more attention to her case and increased the demand to nullify the death penalty ruling. In a statement published on May 1, 2009, Amnesty International considered the execution of Ms. Darabi in violation of international standards and norms.  

Arrest and detention 

Ms. Delara Darabi was arrested by police and transferred to the Rasht prison on December 28, 2003, at night. According to various reports, on this day, Ms. Darabi and her boyfriend, Amirhossein Sotudeh, entered a house belonging to a cousin of Ms. Darabi’s father, for robbery. The landlord was murdered by several blows of a knife after receiving a knockout blow by a baseball bat. Ms. Darabi and Mr. Sotudeh escaped after robbing the safe of the house. However, Ms. Darabi left her bag there, and her boyfriend refused to return to the victim’s house and take it. Therefore, she called her ex-suitor, Sa’id, for help. Sa’id went to the house and brought back the bag, but he also contacted Ms. Darabi’s father, who called the police. Finally, both Delara and Amirhossein were arrested. 

The case of Ms. Delara Darabi was sent to Branch 10 of the Rasht Courthouse for arraignment the next day, December 29, 2003. Reconstruction of the murder scene took place on December 30, 2003. She was denied access to an attorney during the first days of her detention.

Ms. Delara Darabi had several physical and psychological problems while in detention for years. Once, she attempted suicide in February of 2007. According to her family, all requests to treat her physically and psychologically outside of the prison were rejected.


Ms. Delara Darabi was tried in various courts. Her first trial took place at Branch 10 of the Rasht Courthouse on January 15, 2004, only 18 days after her arrest. The court condemned her with an unusual expediency that was rare at the time. Ms. Darabi’s father hired a well-known attorney in Rasht for the first trial. However, the attorney was not present during the first session, where all other defendants and their attorneys were present, in addition to the victim’s family.

Ms. Darabi’s case was sent to various courts to be investigated. The Supreme Court confirmed the ( first trial) court ruling for the first time on September 3, 2004. However, in order to investigate the pills taken by the defendant and the fact that she was under 18 years old, the Supreme Court referred the case to Branch 107 of the Public Court of Rasht ( Juvenile’s Branch). This branch investigated the case in two sessions. The first session took place on December 6, 2004, and Ms. Darabi’s attorney was not present. The next session, with her attorney present, took place on February 9, 2005. (Iran newspaper:  December 24, 2005)

The second hearing of Ms. Darabi’s case took place at Branch 107 of the Public Court of Rasht (Juvenile’s Branch) presided by Judge Javidnia on June 15, 2006.  


The charges against Ms. Delara Darabi were, “the murder of Mahin Darabi on December 28, 2003, robbing her house, and having an illicit relationship.”    

Evidence of guilt

According to the head of Public Relations of Gilan Courthouse, “Delara Darabi was condemned to death for committing murder, confessing to it, and recovering bloody money under her bed.” (IRNA, Gilan, May 5, 2009)


A few days after her arrest, while waiting for her trial, Ms. Delara Darabi wrote a letter to the case judge and claimed her innocence. She wrote, “I accepted the responsibility for the murder only because of my feeling for Amir and all his promises. I don’t believe in any of my statements.” (Iran newspaper on December 24, 2005) She also rejected all her previous confessions about the murder during the court session on January 15, 2004. She claimed that Amirhossein had given her some tranquilizing pills, and he killed the victim with the blows of a knife. During the court session, Ms. Darabi stated, “When Amirhossein asked me to go to the victim’s house, I had no idea that he had such an intention. I reject my primary statement. After my arrest for the murder charge, Amirhossein told me several times that I won’t be executed (Qesas) because I was under 18 years old. He asked me to take the responsibility of the murder, and I accepted out of naiveté and because I loved Amirhossein.” In the court, however, Amirhossein accepted his association in the murder and begged pardon from the victim’s family.  (Khabar-e Jonub on June 18, 2006)

One of the most important problems of this case was the fact that Ms. Darabi was under 18 years old when the murder was committed. She was only 17 and should be tried in a children’s court from the beginning. But this important issue was not considered during the primary trial. Also, according to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by Iran, capital punishment for an offense committed before the age of eighteen is strictly prohibited.

During various sessions, Ms. Darabi had announced that she was not the murderer. In explaining the events of the day the murder took place, she said, “That boy and I were lovers. A few days earlier, he told me that he had found a forged title certificate for the house of my father’s cousin, Mahin. He claimed that someone wants to sell the house by this forged certificate. Therefore, he asked me to make an appointment with Mahin at her house to explain this to her. I did that, and we went to Mahin’s house on the day of the incident. Amirhossein had given me some pills, and I was aimless. After he went behind the back of the victim, he hit her with a baseball bat. Then, he tied her mouth and asked me to get him a knife. I aimlessly went to the kitchen and brought a knife. He took it and stabbed Mahin several times. I did not blow even once.” (E’temad-e Melli newspaper on May 2, 2009)

According to Mr. Khorramshahi, Ms. Darabi’s attorney, there were several serious problems in this case. He believes, after the defendant rejected responsibility for the murder, the scene must have been reconstructed. One issue was that Ms. Darabi was left-handed, and most of the blows had been inflicted on the victim from the right side. According to Mr. Khorramshahi, “Even though Delara accepted the responsibility of the murder during the primary investigation, she was left-handed, and she could not hit the victim from behind, on her right side. If the scene was reconstructed once again, she could prove her innocence.”  


Branch 107 of the Public Court of Rasht condemned Ms. Delara Darabi to death (Qesas), and Branch 33 of the Supreme Court confirmed the ruling. This ruling was carried out on May 1, 2009, without informing the family or her attorney, while the head of the Judiciary had issued an order for a two-month suspension of the ruling. Ms. Darabi was able to talk to her family over the phone before her execution. Efforts made by her family to visit her for the last time and requesting pardon from the victim’s family were unsuccessful. Ms. Delara Darabi’s body was buried at Bagh-e Rezvan in Rasht.

An appeal of this case had been referred to Branch Seven of the Supreme Court in March of 2007. According to Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, the defendant’s attorney, judges of this branch only considered the primary indictment in a short period of time and confirmed the Qesas ruling against Ms. Darabi. According to Mr. Khorramshahi, the problems of the case were not taken into consideration, and many questions and issues remained without answer. 

According to Mohammad Mostafa’i, who had been the defense attorney after Khorramshahi, “Based on law, Delara’s attorney should have been informed about the fact that the ruling was about to be carried out. Even if she fired her attorney, Mr. Khorramshahi should have been informed, and the defendant should have had an opportunity to hire another attorney.” (Radio Zamaneh)

Many legal experts pointed out several problems with the case, including the fact that it was carried out, unusually, on a Friday. The family and the attorney for the defendant were not present, and the right of the defendant to get pardon from the victim’s family during the last hours was violated.

On the other hand, Amirhossein Sotudeh, who was in prison, asked to meet with the Public Prosecutor of Rasht several times before the execution of Ms. Darabi. He had stated that she was not the murderer and that he was. After Ms. Darabi was executed, Amirhossein wrote a letter and indicated that she was innocent. Finally, Mr. Sotudeh committed suicide at Rasht Prison and died on December 25, 2010. (Democracy and Human Rights Activists in Iran, January 11, 2011)


*Iran newspaper on December 24, 2005; Khabar-e Jonub on June 18, 2006, and February 1, 2007; ISNA on September 20, 2006, and January 22, 2007; E’temad newspaper on April 25, and October 22, 2006, and April 16, 2009; E’temad-e Melli newspaper on May 2, 2009; IRNA, Gilan, May 5, 2009; Democracy and Human Rights Activists in Iran, January 11, 2011; and Modafe’-personal website of Mohammad Mostafa’i on March 30, 2011. 

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