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

Reyhaneh Jabbari Malayeri


Age: 26
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Date of Execution: October 25, 2014
Location: Karaj, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder

Human rights violations in this case

The Legal Context

The Courts


Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 11 February 1979-1994


In the immediate aftermath of the 11 February 1979 Revolution, an ad hoc tribunal, initially referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, was set up to try the officials of the previous regime, for which no specific procedures were devised. In a decree dated 24 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary religious leader, appointed a cleric as Shari’a Judge and instructed him “to issue Shari’a-based rulings,” thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts.


Initially, the revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of the Shari’a (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars. On 17 June 1979, the Revolutionary Courts and the Prosecutor’s Office Rules of Procedure, which was only selectively observed, established the latter’s jurisdiction and make-up.


The Courts’ jurisdiction encompassed a wide array of offenses including moharebeh (“waging war with God”), efsad e fel arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), crimes against national and international security, economic crimes, murder, profiteering, prostitution, rape, and narcotic drugs-related crimes. The law required that two of the three principal members of the Revolutionary Courts be Shari’a judges.



Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 1994-2002


With the adoption of the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994, and the Code of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts of 19 September 1999, a uniform code of procedure was applied to both revolutionary and general courts. The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts was limited to 6 categories of offenses:

1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh” (enmity with god) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth;)

2. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;

3. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;

4. espionage;

5. smuggling and drug-related crimes; 6. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.

 6. Furthermore, pursuant to the Law on the Manner of Punishing Individuals Engaged in Unauthorized Audio and Visual Activities, Article 11, the revolutionary courts have jurisdiction over crimes that fall within the purview of said Law, including production and distribution of obscene materials and misuse and abuse thereof.

These courts continued, however, to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as theft and sexual offenses. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allowed the revolutionary courts to try political and media crimes whenever they wished to do so.


The new law eliminated the Prosecutor’s Office and gave the judges inthe Revolutionary Courts the power to perform the duties of the prosecutor, as well as their own, in any case brought before them.


Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 2002-Present


The Amended Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 2002 reinstated the Prosecutor’s Office in both revolutionary and general courts. In cases involving political and media crimes, revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction overlaps with that of Province Criminal Courts.


With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014, and its coming into force in June 2015, the jurisdiction of the revolutionary courts remains unchanged, with slight modifications in procedural aspects of adjudication. For instance, the new law provides that for crimes subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, or higher, the revolutionary court shall convene with three judges, whereas, prior to the passage of this law, adjudication of all crimes within the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts took place with only a single judge.

The Appellate System of Revolutionary Courts, 1979-Present


From their inception until 1994, the rulings of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. In the early 1980s a court entitled the Supreme Court of Qom was established in the city of Qom and which reviewed cases of execution and confiscation of properties, thereby forming a first tier form of appeal. The exact date of the creation of the court is not clear, but, based on available information, the court became operational in the early 1980s, even though Ayatollah Khomeini's official order for its creation is dated 1985. The court’s procedure was not systematic and did not meet the international standards for a court of appeals; there was no official record of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Qom was dissolved in 1989.


The Law of 14 June 1994 subjected the Courts’ decisions to appeal. An appellate court was established at each provincial capital, called the Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by the Revolutionary Courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those involving capital punishment.


Narcotic drugs-related crimes constitute a significant exception to the appeals process. Governed by the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Law of 1988, as Amended on 8 November 1997 and 31 July 3 2010, these crimes are within the jurisdiction of, and are adjudicated on a regular basis by, Revolutionary Courts whose decisions are final. After being handed down by the judge, death sentences are sent to the Prosecutor General or the Head of the Supreme Court as a matter of administrative approval.


With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 (and its coming into force in June 2015), however, drug related crimes became subject to appeal as well.

General Courts, 1979-1982


In cases not falling under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, the system devised under the previous regime continued to function in parallel with new systems devised by laws passed by the Judicial Council, one of which, entitled The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, radically changed the entire structure and categorization of the courts. It divided the courts in three branches: Criminal, Civil, and Peace (a sort of arbitration court dealing with minor financial and other disputes). Specialized courts such as family courts were eliminated.


General Courts, 1982-1994


The Law of the Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure of 1982 established a new criminal courts system, Criminal Courts I and II. Criminal Court I, established only in provincial capitals, had jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Criminal Court II heard less serious crimes.


General Courts, 1994-2002


The Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994 established umbrella courts called General Courts, which replaced and dissolved pre-existing civil and criminal courts. The law dissolved the Prosecutor’s offices and tasked a single person with the roles of judge, prosecutor, and investigator.


General Courts, 2002-2015


In 2002, the 1994 Law was amended, reviving the role of the Prosecutor’s Office in General Courts. The prosecution offices were re-established in a gradual process over several years. The amended law also re-established specialized branches within general courts dealing separately with criminal and civil matters. In addition, this law allocated a number of branches of the Province Court of Appeals to have original jurisdiction over a number of cases including the most serious offenses, as well as political and media crimes. In these cases, the branches are called the Province Criminal Court.


General Courts, 2015 to Today


With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, general courts underwent certain changes as well. Criminal courts were divided into Criminal Court One, Criminal Court Two, Military Court, Juvenile Court, and Revolutionary Court. Criminal Court One has jurisdiction over serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, and higher, as well as political and media crimes. Criminal Court Two has jurisdiction over other crimes. Another change consists of the establishment of juvenile courts, which adjudicates crimes committed by individuals less than 18 years of age. In cases where the individuals less than 18 commit serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, however, Criminal Court One will have jurisdiction, observing rules of juvenile criminal procedure.


The Appellate System of General Courts, 1979-Present


The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, abolished appeal of most criminal courts’ decisions. The law of 1982 restricted the appeal possibility even further. According to the Islamic Republic authorities’ interpretation of Islamic Law, a qualified jurist’s decisions were not subject to appeal except under special circumstances, such as when the judge realized his own mistake, or another judge advised him so, or when he did not have jurisdiction over the case. Even in such situations, the case would not go to a higher court but would be subject to review by the same judge or another judge at his level. The judges were even urged to call their verdicts “opinions,” so that the possible change in the verdict would not be “haram” (“sinful,” the highest level of prohibition in Islam, disobedience of which would result in a sin).


In October 1988, the Majles (Iranian parliament) passed a law regarding review of court judgments. This law provided for an appeal if the conviction was claimed to be based on invalid documentation or false testimony. The defendant could also base an appeal on a point of law or a procedural violation.


The appellate system was expanded in other laws in the late 1980s and in 1993. The Law for the Establishment of Criminal Courts I and II of 11 July 1989 created the Branches of the Supreme Court. Crimes of less importance, tried in Criminal Court II, were subject to review by Criminal Court I.


For the most important crimes involving death punishment, which were under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court I, the law allowed limited appeal to the Branches of the Supreme Court. Defendants had the right to petition the Supreme Court for appeal in certain cases involving false testimony or procedural violations, and if granted, the case would be remanded to either another criminal court or the original one.


Finally, the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 1994, as amended in 2002, established an appellate court at each provincial capital, called Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by both general and revolutionary courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those carrying the death penalty, as well as decisions made by the Province Criminal Court.


The amended law of 2002, continued the appellate procedure to the Branches of the Supreme Court established by the afore-mentioned law of 11 July 1989


The Supreme Court continues to be the competent authority to rule on new trials, which have been provided for in limited circumstances.

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, the Court of Appeals shall be the competent authority to hear appeals from Criminal Court Two decisions, and the Supreme Court shall hear appeals from Criminal Court One decisions.

Special Courts for the Clergy


These courts are rooted in a 1979 decree, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which established a committee of religious and noble figures in every region to purge the clergy of anti-revolutionary elements under the supervision of the Revolutionary Courts. Between late 1981 and 1984, a special court in the city of Qom handled, though not systematically, the trial of clerics.


On 29 July 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini officially appointed a prosecutor and a member of the clergy as Shari’a judge for Special Courts for the Clergy. On 6 August 1990, a directive was issued regulating the conduct of these courts, the jurisdictional ambiguity of which is such that it effectively extends to “anyone where one of the parties is a cleric” and to “all matters in which the Court is designated as competent by the Supreme Leader.”


The court, which was not mentioned in the Islamic Republic's constitution, was mandated to try “pseudo clerics, those related to/connected with the clergy, for public and/or anti-revolutionary crimes, and violations of the prestige of the clergy,” and where the principal suspect is a member of the clergy, “any co-conspirator or assistant, whether a cleric or not.”


These courts are generally not open to the public and can issue sentences for all acts and omissions punishable under codified Iranian laws or Shari’a or for any other acts or omissions which can bring dishonor to the clergy or to the Islamic Revolution. Further, in certain particular cases – which have not been defined – where no punishment has been devised by either the Penal Code or even the Shari’a, the Court “can rule as it deems fit.” 


The Appellate System of the Special Court for the Clergy, 1979-Present


There is no information on any appeal process for the Special Court for the Clergy prior to the 1990 directive. Article 49 of said directive set up, however, an appeals court called Special Appellate Court for the Clergy, the head of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to which the decisions of the lower court can be appealed.


Military Courts


The military court system, independent from the judiciary under the previous regime, became a part of it on 1 December 1981. The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces, established in 1986, replaced and merged other military courts and tribunals in existence at the time, namely the pre-revolution Judiciary Organization of the Army, the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Army (established on 8 December 1979), and the Revolutionary and General Court for the Revolutionary Guards (established on 15 July 1979.) The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces has its own Criminal Code and follows the country’s general rules of criminal procedure.


The Law of the Criminal Procedure of the Armed Forces of 15 May 1985 created Military Courts I and II. Military Court I has jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Military Court II hears less serious crimes.


The Appellate System of Military Courts, 1979-Present


The law of 8 December 1979, establishing the Revolutionary Military Court, did not provide for any appeals. The Law of 15 May 1985 created a system of appeals through the creation of a two-tier system of courts. The decisions of Military Court II were subject to review by Military Court I. This law also provided that multiple Branches of the Supreme Court be designated as the appellate court to review decisions of Military Court I.


The judges


1979-1997: Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily law graduates and jurists. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, a five-member Committee was established to purge the judicial system of undesirable elements, pursuant to the Legal Bill for the Modification of the Judiciary and the Law for Hiring Judges of 8 March 1979. The power of the committee was absolute and its decisions, resulting in a widespread purge of the judiciary, final.


The Law for the Conditions of Selection of Judges of 4 May 1981 established the conditions of eligibility for judges. The latter were to be hired among men who were legitimate children and had practical commitment to Islam and allegiance to the Islamic Republic. The law, which led to the hiring of clerics and Islamic legal scholars, also allowed hiring practically anyone as a judge who could “obtain the Judicial High Council’s permission.” Moreover, Note 2 of the Amendments of 4 October 1982 to this law allowed widespread employment of seminary students “who ha[d] general knowledge equivalent to a high school diploma” as judges at prosecutor’s offices in general as well as Revolutionary Courts.  


By 1989, the judiciary counted about 2,000 new judges trained in theological seminaries (graduates and students) and political appointees, many having replaced judges trained in law schools.


1997-Present: As of this writing (2013) the Law for Hiring Judges and its amendments of 4 October 1982, 7 February 1987, and 9 May 1988 are in full force and form the basis for hiring judges. The Executive Rules of Procedure of 22 December 1997 subjected such hiring to passing an entrance examination and successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the duration of which ranges between one and two years. The law does not limit hiring to men only but does not specify in what capacity women will be functioning, other than an advisory one.

Currently, judges are selected in accordance with the Guidelines on the Recruitment, Selection, and Internship for Judicial Candidates and the Hiring of Judges.


Dismissal of Judges: From 1979 to 1989, the judiciary was run by the Supreme Judicial Council which was composed of the head of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General (both of whom were appointed by the Supreme Leader), and three judges elected by the entire body of judges in the country. The Council had the power to hire and dismiss judges in accordance with the law.


The constitutional reforms of 1989 substituted the Supreme Judicial Council with one person, the Head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader, whose mandate is not subject to popular vote, appoints the Head of the Judiciary for a 5-year term. The latter has significant power to influence the dismissal of judges. Dismissal cases are referred to three types of disciplinary courts, presided over by judges appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, who has veto power over any decisions made by the relevant courts.


Two of these courts, established in 1991 and 2011, are charged with examining the judges’ conduct from a religious and ideological standpoint. The process does not necessarily involve the defendant and the final decision, left to the Head of the Judiciary, is not subject to appeal.


Human rights violations

Based on the available information, the following human rights have been violated in this case:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.

UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.

In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one’s religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.

  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

UDHR, Article 19; ICCPR, Article 19.1 and ICCPR, Article 19.2.

  • The right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of one’s interests.

UDHR, Article 20; ICCPR, Article 22.1.

The right to due process

  • The right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal in accordance with law.

ICCPR, Article 14.1 and Article 14.2.

Pre-trial detention rights

  • The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.

UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.b.

  • The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.

  • The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

Trial rights

  • The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

ICCPR, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

ICCPR, Article 14.1.

Capital punishment

  • The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.



About this Case

Reyhaneh Jabbari was 19, independent, ambitious, and daring. She could have become a famous decorator.

Reyhaneh Jabbari Malayeri's execution was announced by various sources, including the public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office (25 October 2014), Fars News (25 October 2014), her lawyer, Mr. Khoramshahi, and her mother in interviews (BBC, 25 October 2014).

Additional information and details related to the case have been taken from Ms. Jabbari's diaries (The Save Reyhaneh Jabbari facebook page), Ms. Jabbari's [first] lawyer's notes (Mr. Mostafa'i's blog and Facebook), Boroumand Foundation's interview with Ms., Jabbari’s mother, an interview with Mr. Tardast, the judge presiding over the case (Ghanoon Media News Agency (23 April 2014), and various other media and other sources, including Etemad (23 November 2009), ISNA (23 June 2014), Mehr News Agency (26 April 2014) and Fars News Agency (28 October 2014).

Ms. Jabbari was born in Tehran in 1988. She was the eldest child of a five-member family. She was in her third year of studying computer software, while working part-time in a firm of interior decorators. According to her relatives, Ms. Jabbari was artistically talented, especially in the sphere of painting and interior decorating. Another one of her talents was writing.

In the spring of 2007, when she was 19 years old, she met Mr. Morteza Abolali Sarbandi, a 47-year-old doctor and former Intelligence Ministry employee, at an ice cream parlor. This acquaintance culminated in the stabbing of Dr. Sarbandi with a knife during an altercation between the two at his private apartment on Mirdamad Avenue (Tehran), on 7 July 2007. Based on available reports, Mr. Sarbandi died as a result of a severe hemorrhage.

According to Ms. Jabbari, she had visited the apartment on that day, under the impression that it was a workplace. She went there for the purpose of designing the interior decoration of a surgery. She realized, however, that Mr Sarbandi intended to rape her; hence wounded him by stabbing him in the shoulder with a knife. She fled the scene after calling for an ambulance (Ms. Jabbari's diaries – Part Two).

International Protests over Ms. Jabbari's Execution

A few years after the announcement of the final verdict in the case of Ms. Jabbari, the case was highlighted in the media, attracting the attention of numerous international human rights forums and organizations. Amnesty International and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, cited violation of due process, described her trial process as "unjust", and made strenuous efforts to halt her execution. In the wake of Ms. Jabbari's execution, Amnesty International issued a statement, condemning the execution, describing it as “another bloody stain on Iran's human rights record.” (Amnesty International – in English – and BBC Persian 25 October 2014) US and German authorities also expressed regret at Ms. Jabbari's execution and voiced concern regarding the fairness of her trial. (Deutsche Welle, 25 October 2014)

Arrest and detention

Ms. Jabbari was arrested (after she was tracked via her cell phone), by Branch 10 of the City of Tehran's Investigation Bureau, in the early hours of 8 July 2007. She was first taken to Abbasabad [Avenue] Police Station, Branch 104, and the following morning to Branch 10 of the Shapur Avenue Investigation Bureau.

Upon searching Ms. Jabbari's home, officers found a knife, a bloodied manteau, and a headscarf. (Investigating magistrate, Mr. Shamlu, Mehr news agency, 26 April 2014)

According to her lawyer and mother, Ms. Jabbari was in solitary confinement for about two months (at the Shapur Avenue Investigation Bureau, for the first 10 days, and Evin's Ward 209, for the rest), without being allowed to see a lawyer or family members. From around October 2007 to 2011, when she was transferred to Shahr-e Rey Prison, Ms. Jabbari was kept in various wards in Evin Prison. In December 2007, Ms. Jabbari was taken to the Shapur Avenue Investigation Bureau, for 10 days, before being transferred back to Evin Prison.

During that period, she was subjected to various kinds of psychological torture (humiliation, insult, obscene language, and threats; her family members were arrested ...), as well as physical torture (flogging, slapping, kicking ...). (Diaries of Reyhaneh Jabbari, Parts 1,2,3,4,7, and CNN in English, 25 October 2014).

In one of her letters from prison, she described the conduct of one of her interrogators: "The chubby man pulled my head back, and the beardless man slapped my ears a few times: left, right, left, right. I experienced the first real thrashing of my life. ... I felt something in my back. I felt the swelling of my skin, and then ... rip.... my skin ruptured. I had a vision of my little sisters being made helpless like me. ... They bound your hands and feet. Then they hung you from a rod, like a piece of clothing, and kicked you in your stomach with their knees ...." (Diaries of Reyhaneh Jabbari, Parts 1,2,3,4, and 7)

According to her mother, two Intelligence Ministry agents were involved in Ms. Jabbari's interrogations from the very night of her arrest. She quoted Ms. Jabbari as saying that the two men told her that they were not from the Prosecutor's Office. The two agents and several others participated in the interrogation and torture of Ms. Jabbari.

"The Intelligence Ministry agents interrogated her from the first evening of her arrest, which had taken place on the morning of 8 July 2007 at the Abbasabad [Avenue] Police Station. The two Intelligence Ministry interrogators, whose names I do not know, nor did Reyhan, were also involved in the searches conducted in our house. The two agents took turns throughout the entire interrogation process, for which Reyhan was taken to the Prosecutor's Office, dealing with criminal charges. Most interrogations were conducted by this duo and, without the presence of Shamlu (the investigating magistrate). When Reyhan was transferred to Evin, these two were there, too, and continued to interrogate her. The beatings and physical tortures were carried out by these two, in addition to several others, whom I have not seen. During a prison visit at the end of 2011, Reyhan told me that a man, named Mo'meni, who apparently held a high managerial position in Evin, had personally embarked on assaulting her. In April 2011, this person put Reyhan in solitary confinement for 11 days; he would blindfold Reyhan and tie her hands behind her back, before proceeding to hit her on the head with some object, which, according to Reyhan, felt like a letter tray on employees' desks. For four days, she was only fed for the one meal of the day. All the time, her hands were tied behind her back and only untied for eating that one meal. She was in so much agony that she could not eat and was fed by a female warden. (Ms. Jabbari's mother, Boroumand Foundation.)


Ms. Jabbari's trial was held at Branch 74 of the Tehran Province's Criminal Court, in several sessions (at least six of them). The first and second court sessions were held on 13 and 15 December 2008, with Judge Kuhkamare'i presiding. From the third session onwards, it was announced that Judge Kuhkamare'i had been transferred to a provincial city and that the sessions were then to be presided over by Judge Tardast. (Boroumand Foundation interview of Ms. Jabbari's mother)

Ms. Jabbari's primary lawyer was Mr. Mohammad Mostafa'i. In the early court sessions, he defended Ms. Jabbari, along with Ms. Shadi Sadr as co-counsel (Mr. Mohammad Mostafa'i's interview with the Voice of America, 15 October 2014. (Boroumand Foundation interview of Ms. Jabbari's mother, 24 December 2014). For one reason or another, throughout the course of the trial, a succession of several lawyers took over her defense.

According to Ms. Jabbari's mother, "The last two lawyers did not attend any court sessions; the prosecutor did not provide them with the case file, nor were they permitted to study the files. (ISNA, 23 June 2014; Boroumand Foundation research) “In the exiting reports, there is no mention of any witness testimonies for the defense. In the words of Ms. Jabbari's mother, "Several people, including the head of the firm at which Reyhan worked; her male colleague; or the firm's clients; were also there. These individuals were subjected to interrogation, even detained, by Shamlu, to confess to having been involved in illicit relationships with Reyhaneh. Questions to that effect were put to them in court, but they denied it.” (Ms. Jabbari's mother, Boroumand Foundation, December 2014)


Ms. Jabbari was charged with "first degree murder." (The public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office, 25 October 2014)

Evidence of guilt

The prosecutor submitted the following evidence and testimonies to the court:

Discovery of a 25cm knife and a bloodied headscarf in Ms. Jabbari's home, as well as her confession to having purchased the knife and to having stabbed the victim once in the right shoulder. (Mehr news agency's interview with the case investigator, 26 April 2014, Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014)

According to the early statements of the duty investigating magistrate at the 1st branch of Tehran's criminal affairs division, the fact that the stabbing was from the back rendered self-defense less probable. (Ebtekar, 9 July 2007)

The blow delivered to the victim was fatal, owing to the sharp edge of the knife and its long steel blade. (Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014).

The unbroken lock of the entrance door to the apartment, on which there was a clear mark of a single blow by a sharp object (probably a knife), is evidence that the door was not locked and it was easy for Ms. Jabbari to leave the scene in the event of threats, such as rape by the victim. (The public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office, 25 October 2014, and Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014)

Ms. Jabbari's escape from the crime scene and her pursuit by the victim is evidence of Ms. Jabbari's guilt. (The public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office, 25 October 2014).

Ms. Jabbari said that she had seen a person named, Mr. Sheikhi, with the victim when she first met him. He was also at the place of the alleged murder, she said. These claims. were never proven.

In the opinion of Judge Tardast, who presided over the case, Ms. Jabbari's relationship with the victim was not a business one, hence her claim of rape is invalid. To prove his point, the judge said that she was not a virgin and had been involved in an illicit affair with her boss at the firm where she was employed. Judge Tardast gave her reason and motive for the murder as her masculine spirit, narcissism, lack of stable personality, psychological state, and an abnormal relationship with her family. (Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014)

Following her execution, Ms. Jabbari's SMS. message to her friend, which said, “I think I will kill him tonight,” was given by Iranian official sources as evidence that the murder was premeditated. (The public relations department of Tehran's Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office, 25 October 2014), whereas, in his interview with Ghanoon Media news agency, the judge had clearly stated that, in the message, Ms. Jabbari was referring to her father, not Dr. Sarbandi. "This woman's mental and psychological state was such that one could even presume that she could kill her father, based on printouts of her SMS texts, to one of the young men with whom she had engaged in an illicit affair (his name has been annexed to the file), which contain her use of obscene and extremely vile insults in reference to her father. She says that (...) this evening we got into a quarrel, and I will kill (...) him tonight. When asked to explain the SMS, Ms. Reyhaneh responds: whenever my father gets drunk, he beats me up." (Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014)


According to Ms. Jabbari's lawyers, her entire trial process was unfair and lacking due process. They believe that evidence of her innocence far outweighed the evidence of her guilt. Yet all her genuine and pertinent claims were dismissed, while claims of the other party were accentuated (Shadi Sadr's Facebook, 25 October 2014, and a Voice of America interview with Mohammad Mostafa'i, 20 April 2014)

From the day of her arrest until her execution, Ms. Jabbari consistently emphasized that the stabbing was in self-defense. In her journals, she explains that, on a spring day in 2007, she was on the phone with a client in an ice-cream parlor, discussing a design she had done for that client, when the victim and a person who introduced himself as Engineer Sheikhi, told her that they had, by chance, overheard her telephone conversation and asked her to give them advice on the interior design of the victim's medical office. They took Ms. Jabbari's interior design firm's business card, and, after contacting her several times, Ms. Jabbari accompanied the victim to the location, which the victim intended to transform into his surgery room, at 6:00 p.m., on Saturday, 7 July 2007.

Ms. Jabbari's Account of Wounding the Victim

According to Ms. Jabbari's writings, the third person, Sheikhi, who had been in the car with them for a while, got out of the car before they reached the location. En route, Dr. Sarbandi also bought something from a pharmacy, and then they went to the apartment. Ms. Jabbari's account of the rest of the event is as follows:

"There was an apartment next to the elevator on the fifth floor, which the doctor opened with his key. I was taken aback, as it was not an office. It was a rundown and dusty residential apartment.... There were no signs of life. ... I left the door open. There was a table near the door, with a few chairs. I sat on one of the chairs nearest to the door. He told me to make myself at home. But I was not at ease. He told me to remove my headscarf, and I became frightened. The table was covered with various objects: paper, key, cell phone, glass, knife stand, flower pot, and general knick-knacks. He went behind the table and into the kitchen. ... He returned with two glasses of fruit juice and immediately drank one of them. He complained of the heat and told me to drink, too. ... I said, “First work. Then fruit juice.” I promptly stood up and went to look at the rooms. ... I made drawings of all of them and took notes. I went back. He suddenly turned away from the prayer mat and headed toward me. There was a sheet laid out on the sofa. My mind went blank. My mouth dried up and my throat felt blocked. My eye caught the door. It was closed. I sat on the chair and shuffled my papers. He had drawn closer. He took out a small packet (condom) and said: Do you know what this is? I knew. I was seized with fear. I stood up. He came forward. ... I was soaking with sweat. ... I headed toward the door and turned the handle. But the door would not open. He was laughing with his eyes. Where are you going? The door is locked. ... He said, “You can only leave here when I let you. I could not stand still. ... He pulled me by the collar. I hit the back of his hand with mine. He grabbed my hand in the air, and, in the movement of the hands, I felt that I had scratched something with my nail. I could feel a tiny fragment of his skin under my nail. He had gone red in the face. I could not see where the scratch was. He clasped his arms. round my waist. My whole body was trapped in his arms. With one arm he took me by the waist and, with the other, pulled my hair from the back. He rubbed the side of his face on my cheek and whispered in my ear, again: “There is no one here. No one can hear you.” ... I hated myself. I could not even let out a snivel. My arm ached, and my neck was stuck....

Suddenly, I noticed the knife. I mustered whatever strength I had left in me and said: “Look. Let me go, and I promise not to tell anyone what has happened. In fact, I will forget it totally.” He let go of me and took a step back. Go? Go where? I took the last decision of my life. ... I was no longer in his clutches. I jumped. I was holding the knife. ... He said, mockingly, “You want to hit me?” ... He yelled, “Look at me. You want to hit me, with that?” ... I ran as fast as I could into the kitchen. ... It had a balcony. ... I opened the door. ... I bent down the balcony and aimed to jump. ... I got scared. I turned around. He was standing in front of the television set by the prayer mat. I wanted to aim for the door, again. He pounced quicker than I. ... I implored him, saying, “You are a devout man. By God, please let me go. ... Just let me go.” He said, “Why are you acting like a gypsy? What's the matter with you? I burst into tears. ... He approached me. I stepped back. He stepped forward. I screamed: I will hit you... He yelled, ... “You cannot do a damn thing.” I said, “Get back.” But he didn't. ... He went red in the face, again [saying], Hit me. ... I raised my hand and drew a very long breath. I brought down my hand with all my strength. ... He turned around ... and said in disbelief, “You hit me?” ... He spun and went to another side. In a panic, I quickly surveyed the table. ... I was looking for a key that could perhaps open the door. There wasn't one. ... He was sitting on the floor. He put his hand behind his back and pulled the knife out. ... He held the knife back and threw it toward me with force. I dodged. He fell to the floor. I quickly bent down and picked it up. He yelled. ... He stood up, took the chair, and flung it at me with force. The chair fell to the ground with a most terrifying noise. ... Even more irate than before, he headed toward me. ... I used what remained of my strength and banged the knife on the door.

I heard a key turning in the lock from the outside, and the door opened. ... It was the engineer, Sheikhi. ... He said, “What's going on here?” I did not respond and just got out of the door. I pressed the elevator button but did not wait. There were two of them now, and I would die if they caught up with me. I climbed up the staircase and went up seven or eight stairs. I heard the doctor's voice yelling in the stairway, “Thief! Thief!” And then I heard the sound of the elevator door opening. I quickly climbed down the stairs and got inside the elevator. As the elevator door was about to close, I saw Sheikhi leaving the apartment with an envelope in his hand. ... The next thing I remember was that I was outside in the street. I called emergency services and said that there had been an incident at number [not given] ... opposite the Government Building. ... A few minutes later, an ambulance arrived.

At no point did Ms. Jabbari ever change her assertion that the victim had intended to rape her, whether it be in detention, during the interrogations, before access to a lawyer, or at any time afterwards. However, the consistency of her account of the incident was never of any help to her during the trial. Instead, the court called the female defendant a "liar" on the grounds that she had said that her father had purchased a Toyota Camry (Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014).

Flaws in Investigation & Evidence of Intelligence Ministry Influencing the Case

According to Ms. Jabbari's mother, the knife used by Ms. Jabbari to inflict a wound in Mr. Sarbandi's shoulder was not purchased by Ms. Jabbari. Nor had any salesmen identified her. Ms. Jabbari had restated that issue in her first prison meeting with her family after being transferred to the general ward. She told them that she had had to confess, under duress, to the interrogators to having personally purchased that knife. (Boroumand Foundation interview of Ms. Jabbari's mother, 24 December 2014)

Based on existing reports, the victim had left the apartment after being wounded, yelling "Thief! Thief!" in the stairway, before losing consciousness, right there and then. According to Ms. Jabbari's lawyers, there had never been any adequate investigations into Mr. Sheikhi and his role in the incident, or the existence or non-existence of the whereabouts of documents missing from the scene. (Diaries of Ms. Jabbari, Part 2, Mr Mostafa'i's website, 20 April 2014; Shadi Sadr's Facebook, 25 October 2014)

The purchase of a condom and pills from the pharmacy by the victim was among other issues totally ignored in Ms. Jabbari's case file. Both the investigating magistrate and the judge believed that the fact that the victim stopped by the pharmacy to purchase pills and a condom, the entering into the apartment, and also the two juice glasses found at the scene were indicative of an ongoing relationship between a man and a woman, not a rape. (Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014; Paragraph 23 of the verdict; Mohammad Mostafa'i's Facebook, 24 April 2014)

A drug called Diphenoxylate was discovered in one of the juice glasses at the crime scene. Diphenoxylate is a combination of morphine and sedative and, depending on the dosage taken, side effects include dizziness, loss of consciousness, and drowsiness. This evidence could have played a key part in corroborating Ms. Jabbari's assertion that Mr. Sarbandi intended to rape her. Yet the judge and the investigating magistrate totally disregarded the drowsiness effect and, instead, focused on its laxative effect. In fact, no mention was made in the case file of what the victim's intent was in slipping the drug into the juice. (Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014; Mohammad Mostafa'i's website, 20 April 2014)

According to Ms. Jabbari, the apartment's front door was locked. Bearing in mind Ms. Jabbari's physical weakness, as opposed to that of the victim, there was no possibility of her leaving the scene by fighting him off. The knife and blood stains on the back of the door demonstrate that, even after wounding the victim, Ms. Jabbari had difficulty opening the door and only managed to leave after Mr. Sheikhi opened the door. (Quds daily, 18 December 2008; Diaries of Reyhaneh Jabbari, Part 2)

According to Ms. Jabbari's lawyer, she was in a situation in which there was no possibility of contacting government forces or the police. It goes without saying that, if a man intends to rape a woman, he will not allow her to telephone the police. Based on the website of Ms. Jabbari's lawyer, "According to Article 61 of the Islamic Penal Code, self-defense against any actual aggression or imminent danger is legitimate, provided it is proportionate to the aggression and danger, is not excessive, and that there is no possibility of resorting to government forces." The court dismissed the legitimate defense argument in the case of Ms. Jabbari, despite the fact that it met all the necessary provisions. "Preparing the groundwork, such as a vacant property, condom, a sheet on the sofa, demanding the removal of headscarf, embracing Reyhaneh, and saying that you have no way of escape, all indicate that failure to resort to self-defense would have actualized the rape." (Mohammad Mostafa'i's website, 20 April 2014)

According to statements by Ms. Jabbari's lawyers, the forensics determined the cause of Mr. Sarbandi's death as hemorrhage. The official cause of death was, therefore, given as a hemorrhage, due to an altercation following stabbing and the delay in getting the victim to a hospital, and not merely as [the result of] the knife stab wound inflicted by Ms. Jabbari. Therefore, the inflicting of a single wound in the victim's right shoulder by Ms. Jabbari, under circumstances where rape was a possibility was not an excessive action, and was proportionate to the danger she was facing. (Mohammad Mostafa'i's website, 20 April 2014; and the Khabar online interview with Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, 28 October 2014)

The court never managed to establish Ms. Jabbari's motive for committing the murder. Nevertheless, it did not accept legitimate defense. If the court found the motive for legitimate self-defense unacceptable, then what was Ms. Jabbari's motive in committing the murder? The court insisted that the relationship between Mr. Sarbandi and Ms. Jabbari was not a business one and that the two had gone to the scene of the crime for a sexual liaison; despite the fact that all the messages exchanged between the two pointed to a formal and business relationship. Therefore, to prove that they were involved in an illicit relationship, the judge cited the messages exchanged between Ms. Jabbari and her boyfriend and Ms. Jabbari's affection for her boyfriend. (Ghanoon Media news agency's interview with Judge Tardast, 23 April 2014).

Also. Ms. Jabbari's behavior following her escape from the apartment indicates that she had no intention of killing the victim. Nor had she taken any actions to destroy evidence. During her defense, she noted that, after leaving the apartment, she telephoned emergency services and stayed there until the arrival of the ambulance to make sure that Mr. Sarbandi had been taken to the hospital. Then she took away all the evidence of the murder, such as the knife, the bloodied manteau and headscarf, to her house. Whereas had it been premeditated murder, she would have destroyed all the evidence, including the knife and bloodied clothing; and she would have also deleted her telephone calls and SMS. messages between herself and Dr. Sarbandi from both hers, and the victim's, cell phones. (Diaries of Reyhaneh Jabbari, Part 2)

Another matter that proved detrimental to Ms. Jabbari's case was the change of judge in the midst of the trial. Mr. Kuhkamare’i, the first judge presiding over the trial, believed that owing to her youth, Ms. Jabbari had been deceived by the victim's appearance and that the victim, who was a devout middle aged man, should not have allowed himself to be alone with a non-mahram woman. He had therefore declared that the court should carry out a more detailed investigation into the case. However, just after that very session, he was replaced with another judge, who ignored all the evidence in favor of Reyhaneh. (Diaries of Reyhaneh Jabbari, Part 5, and a Boroumand Foundation interview with Ms. Jabbari's mother)

Mr. Sarbandi was a former Intelligence Ministry employee, which appears to have influenced the processing of the case.

According to statements by the lawyers and Ms. Jabbari's mother, during her detention, she was interrogated by several individuals from the Intelligence Ministry, yet the records of the interrogation were removed from the case file. Page four of the indictment issued by the investigating magistrate refers to a corrupt CD, which had contained a recording of the investigations and tapped calls in the period up to Ms. Jabbari's detention and noted that the said CD was evidence. The CD contained the victim's telephone conversations with several other individuals, including Mr. Sheikhi. Ms. Jabbari's lawyer believes that the contents of the CD would have proved her innocence. (Mr Mostafa'i, the Universal Tolerance Organization, 20 April 2014; Voice of America, 15 October 2014, the Boroumand Foundation's interview with Ms. Jabbari's mother, Shadi Sadr's Facebook, and BBC Persian, 4 January 2015)


In 2009, Branch 74 of Tehran Province's Criminal Court charged Ms. Jabbari with first degree murder and sentenced her to qisas-e nafs [lex talionis or retribution in kind]. That verdict was upheld by Branch 27 of the State Supreme Court in August 2010. In the autumn of 2010, an appeal by Ms. Jabbari's lawyer, to which religious Shari'a reasons were annexed to the case file, was sent to the head of the Judiciary for implementation of Article 18 [of Iran's Penal Code], and it was finally approved by him in the winter of 2014. (Khabar online's interview with Ms. Jabbari's lawyer, Mr. Khoramshahi, 28 October 2014; A Boroumand Foundation interview with Ms. Jabbari's mother, January 2015, ISCA news, 14 August 2010)

Several international campaigns were launched to halt the execution of Ms. Jabbari. Personalities such as Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Googoosh, Asqar Farhadi, Behzad Farahani, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Peyman Mo'adi, Bahareh Rahnama, Reza Kianian, and the family of Naser Hejazi appealed to the victim's family to gain their consent for a reprieve.

Ms. Jabbari's execution order was nearly carried out several times but was halted each time for one reason or another. The last such instance was on 29 September 2014, when Ms. Jabbari was transferred to Raja'i-Shahr Prison for the execution to be carried out. However, once the news was disseminated by Ms. Jabbari's mother, dozens of people congregated in front of Raja'i-Shahr Prison chanting slogans in support of Ms. Jabbari and in protest against the verdict. As a result, she was taken back to Shahr-e Rey Prison that evening. Ms. Jabbari's family members met with her for the last time on 24 October 2014, a day before her execution.

After seven years, Ms. Jabbari was executed by hanging, at dawn, on 25 October 2014, at Raja'i-Shahr Prison in Karaj. Ms. Jabbari's family were not informed of the place of the execution. Only the victim's family were present at the execution. The victim's eldest son ended her life by pulling the chair from under her feet. At the time of her execution, Ms. Jabbari was 26 years old.

During one of the court sessions, Mr. Abolsamad Khoramshahi took over [Ms. Jabbari's defense] from Mr. Mostafa'i, because Mr. Mostafa'i was traveling outside the country. But Mr Mostafa'i again took over as Ms. Jabbari's lawyer upon returning from his trip. After Mr. Mostafa'i emigrated from the country, Ms. Jabbari's family reappointed Mr. Khoramshahi as their daughter's lawyer. On 5 May 2014, Mr. Mohammad Ali Jadari-Forughi replaced Mr. Khoramshahi. And since the verdict had already been finalized, Mr. Jadari-Forughi focused the bulk of his attempts to gain consent of the victim's family for a reprieve. In October 2014, Ms. Parisa Ghanbari took over from Mr. Forughi.


*Fars news agency (25 November 2007, 28 October 2014), Ebtekar daily (9 July 2007), Hamshahri online (8 July 2007), Mardomsalari (5 November 2007), Quds daily (15, 18 December 2008), Deutsche Welle (25 October 2014), Iranians in Britain (20 December 2008), Etemad daily (23 November 2009, 19 April 2014), ISCA news (14 August 2010), Amnesty International (24 October 2-14), No To Execution International Campaign (26 October 2014), Khabar online (28 October 2014), Facebook and interviews of Ms. Jabbari's mother (Manoto 25 October and 5 November 2014, Fox News, 25 October 2014, Iran Global, 30 September 2014), Interviews with Ms. Jabbari's lawyer (Mr Mostafa'i: Voice of America, 15 October 2014, 31 20 April 2014, 7 November 2014), Robero (11 October 2014), Interview with Ms. Jabbari's lawyer (Mr Khoramshahi: Khabar online, 28 October 2014), ISNA (11,13, 14, 15 17 April 2014, 24 May, 8 June 2014, 1 October 2014), Haqe Zendegi (9 December 2014), Shadi Sadr's Facebook (25 October 2014), Article by Shadi Sadr (BBC Persian 4 January 2014).


Correct/ Complete This Entry