Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh

About

Age: 38
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: November 26, 2008
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of offense: 31

About this Case

Ms. Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh, 38, was executed for defending her 15-year-old daughter from being raped.

News of the execution of Ms. Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh was published by BBC, Iscanews, and Fars news agencies on November 26, 2008. Additional information was taken from the BBC website on November 9, 2007, November 25 and 28, 2008, the Hamshahri newspaper on June 23, 2005, October 9 and 14, 2004, the Kayhan newspaper on October 14, 2005, the E’temad Melli newspaper on May 26, 2008, the E’temad newspaper on December 3, 2007, and the websites of Khabaronline on March 17, 2006, Gooya News on April 6, 2006, Aftabnews on February 18 and April 1, 2006, Changeforequality on November 24, 2008, Hamegi on November 25, 2008, Radiozamaneh and Meydaan on November 26, 2008, and Cloob on December 1, 2008.

Ms. Haqiqatpajuh, 38, a housewife, was raised in a crowded eight-member family. Her father was the head chef for the Melli Bank and her mother a housewife. (E’temad Melli)

At the insistence of her parents, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh married her first husband, a relative of her mother, when she was 17 and had two daughters. When she was 27, she met Mr. Mohammad*, her second husband. After she separated from her first husband, she married Mr. Mohammad as a temporary marriage. According to her, Mr. Mohammad was an addict and encouraged her to use narcotics.

The case of Ms. Haqiqatpajuh was related to the disappearance and murder of her temporary husband in August of 2001. 

Arrest and detention

Ms. Haqiqatpajuh was arrested in August of 2001 following the disappearance of her husband, Mohammad, and discovery of his body in a river near Tehran. The family of her husband reported his absence to the police. After police investigated and found the body of Mr. Mohammad, his family filed a complaint against Ms. Haqiqatpajuh. Police interrogated and arrested Ms. Haqiqatpajuh at her house.

Ms. Haqiqatpajuh was detained in Evin and Raja’ishahr prisons for seven years. She had no access to an attorney during this detention period, but she was able to visit her children weekly. In prison, she was able to obtain diplomas for computing and doll-making and memorizing five sections of the Quran. During her detention period, she suffered from abdominal adhesions, severe depression, and tongue tie. She was operated on twice. (Cloob)

Trial

Branch 1601 of the Criminal Court of Tehran tried Ms. Haqiqatpajuh in the spring of 2002. There was only one session and Ms. Haqiqatpajuh  had to defend herself without an attorney. Before the trial, a person was interoduced as her public defender; however, according to Ms. Haqiqatpajuh, this person did not show up in the court and another public defender was assigned who announced that he would submit his defense in 20 days because of his lack of knowledge about the case. (Hamshahri newspaper, October 9, 2004)

There was only one trial session and Ms. Haqiqatpajuh had to defend herself without an attorney.

After the trial and until her execution, Mr. Abdolsamad Khorramshahi was Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s attorney.

Charges

The charge brought against Ms. Haqiqatpajuh was announced as “murder.”

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.  International human rights organizations have drawn attention to reports indicating that Islamic Republic authorities have brought trumped-up charges, including drug trafficking, sexual, and other criminal offences, against their opponents (including political, civil society activists, as well as unionists and ethnic and religious minorities). Each year Iranian authorities sentence to death hundreds of alleged common criminals, following judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. The exact number of people convicted and executed based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

The evidence presented against Ms. Haqiqatpajuh was her “confession” and the discovery of her husband’s “mutilated body” in a river in the south of Tehran.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic use of severe torture and solitary confinement to obtain confessions from detainees and have questioned the authenticity of confessions obtained under duress.

Defense

During the interrogation and trial, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh stated that she had murdered Mr. Mohammad to defend the honor of her daughter. Her daughter, who was 15 at the time of the murder, testified in defense of her mother. (Gooya)

In an interview with Meydaan, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh described her trial: “When I went to the court, I knew nothing about the law. I did not know what to say. I could not defend myself. I wanted to read my letters but the judge said there is no time. He asked me to tell them why I killed him. I had no attorney. I told everything. I told the truth. The judge said if there is an attorney, he should be present for the trial to become official. They went and found an attorney who did not know anything about my case. He asked for time and postponement of the trial but the judge would not agree. I did not talk to the attorney. He had no idea about my case.”

During the trial, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh stated that due to a severe headache, she had consumed narcotics and gone to sleep when, in the middle of the night, she woke up hearing noises from her daughter’s room. She ran there and saw her daughter’s defenseless and naked body in the hands of her husband. She attacked him. “My child was only 15 and was crushed under his body. I fought with him. He persisted to continue what he was doing and kept going towards the child. He pushed me back. But I went to him, took his legs, and pulled him out of the room. I shut the door and locked it. I came out in the hallway and we got into a fight again. We were struggling for an hour and a half. He kept hitting me and saying: ‘How much money do you want? Let me finish what I want. Let me go inside and do what I want and I will tell you what happened.’ He told me: ‘You’re miserable! You don’t understand. Let me go inside. Nothing will happen.’ … He did not think about how she was my child, he only wanted to do his thing.” (Meydaan)

During the trial, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh continued: “I don’t know how I found a scarf that I tied around his neck. He was laughing and making fun of me. I became angry. I pulled the scarf harder. He became silent. When I released the scarf, he fell down on the ground. I could not believe that he was dead. I poured water on his face several times. But, he was dead.” (Khabaronline)

In an interview with Meydaan published in 2008, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh emphasized that she could not choose and make decisions at that moment and stated: “I’m imprisoned for about 7 to 8 years for defending my honor. I told everything. I expected the judge to consider all aspects and the moment when I committed this. At that moment, I could not do anything else. Should I let him rape my dear child?” Ms. Haqiqatpajuh also stated that her husband once before asked her to let him go on a trip with her older daughter, but she rejected his request. (Khabaronline)

In addition to testifying during the trial in defense of her mother and stating that she had to commit the murder to defend her, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s daughter wrote a letter to Mr. Shahrudi, the Head of Judiciary at the time, stating: “My mother is in prison for seven years because she defended me. I would like to know if the Islamic society accepts that my mother should have let that man to do whatever he wanted? Then, my mother would have been free and that man would have continued his actions. Is this right?” (Radiozamaneh)

According to the attorney, who took Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s case after the ruling was issued, “The legitimate defense is a legitimate reason to commit a crime and this was not addressed by the court.” 

According to Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s attorney, Mr. Khorramshahi, the total context of her case points to the validity of her defense. “According to Article 61** of the Islamic Penal Code, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh committed the murder of her temporary husband in order to defend her daughter’s honor which is a main reason to reject calling this a crime.” He continued by referring to 10 objections to the case by Branch 33 of the Supreme Court and stated: “An important objection is the lack of consideration by the court to the existence of a legitimate defense claimed by Fatemeh who reasoned that what she was in defense of her daughter. In general, lack of complete investigation is one of the main reasons to reject the verdict.” According to Mr. Khorramshahi, “defects of interrogations, lack of investigating activities and the moral background of the victim” are other deficiencies in the investigation of this case. (Hamshahri newspaper on June 23, 2005)

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Mr. Khorramshahi stated that there has been some dispute over investigation of Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s case. “One of the Judiciary Supervision judges believed that the ruling has been issued against the law and she had a legitimate defense.” (Gooya) 

A Summary of the Defects of Ms. Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh’s Legal Proceedings

Not much information is available on either the adjudication of Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh’s case or the details of the case itself. Given the existence of reliable published news, however, certain defects can be detected in the case.

The most important defect in the court’s death sentence issued for Ms. Haqiqatpajuh is the court not taking into consideration the claim of self-defense. According to Haqiqatpajuh herself, and her daughter’s, as well as her attorney’s statements, Fatemeh was forced to kill her husband to prevent him from raping her daughter. In other words, Fatemeh killed her husband who intended to rape her 14-year-old daughter. Her daughter confirmed this. The judges, however, did not consider Ms. Haqiqatpajuh ’s actions as amounting to self-defense. It must be noted that one cannot definitively say that Fatemeh’s murder of her husband was an instance of self-defense because under Iranian law, certain conditions must be met. But it was necessary [nevertheless] to conduct thorough and detailed investigations regarding self-defense; greater attention should have been paid to such an important issue.

Pursuant to the old Islamic Penal Code Article 61 which was in force at the time of the adjudication of this case, “any person who, in defense of his/her, or another’s, life, honor, chastity, property, or physical freedom, and in the face of present aggression or imminent danger, commits an offence that is considered a crime, shall not be prosecuted and punished, provided that all of the following conditions are met:

     1- The defense is proportionate to the aggression and danger.     

     2- The action taken is not excessive.     

     3- Access to governmental forces without delay, is practically not possible, and/or the intervention of such forces is not effective in repelling the aggression and danger.

Note: Defense of another’s life, honor, chastity, property, or physical freedom is permitted only when he/she is incapable of defending him/herself and requires assistance.”

Given the above provision, self-defense is available when the three conditions stated therein are satisfied. In Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s case, the judges most probably were of the opinion that even if her claim were true, the conditions for self-defense were not present. In other words, the judges believed that Fatemeh did not have to kill her husband in order to prevent her daughter from being raped; she could have prevented him from committing the act of rape through other means. It seems that the judges believed Ms. Haqiqatpajuh ’s actions were excessive. In any event, what can be deduced is that sufficient investigations were not conducted. At one point, judicial authorities found defects in the investigations and issued an order for new investigations to be conducted in the case. Supreme Court Branch 32 considered lack of attention to the issue of self-defense and lack of necessary investigations as defects in the case. If Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s claim that she acted in her daughter’s defense is true, self-defense should not have been ruled out solely because Fatemeh could have prevented her husband from raping her daughter through any other act than murder, since it is difficult to assess what kind of action, in defense of another, is sufficient to prevent the rape. In other words, it was necessary to take into consideration the nature of the husband’s act in raping [the daughter].

One of the other fundamental defects of the case is Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s lack of access to an attorney. She did not have access to a lawyer during the entire preliminary investigation phase. The court appointed a lawyer at the first trial session. Based on Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s statement, she was not even able to talk to her lawyer in court. Thereafter, another attorney took over the case and asked the court for additional time to read the case file and draft a proper defense. This shows that Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s attorney took over the case while the court was already in session, and was therefore not able to properly and effectively defend his client. Fatemeh was not able to use the services of a lawyer prior to this stage. This is while for crimes such as murder, the presence of an attorney is mandatory in the adjudication process under the law. Pursuant to the Revolutionary and General Courts Rules of Criminal Procedure, Article 186, Note 1, “In the event that a defendant accused of crimes where the punishment is, by law, Qesas, execution, stoning, and life imprisonment, does not personally retain and introduce an attorney, the court shall appoint one for the defendant, except in crimes of lewdness and immorality where the defendant refuses the presence or the introduction of an attorney.” This provision means that it is mandatory that the defendant have access to an attorney, not only at trial but in all phases of adjudication from preliminary investigations on. Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh was interrogated and preliminary investigations were conducted without her having any legal knowledge. She was deprived of an attorney at this very important stage. Lack of access to an attorney has created certain defects in the case to which Supreme Court Branch 32 has also alluded. One of these defects is the incomplete nature of the interrogations, the result of which is that the information regarding self-defense has not been thoroughly analyzed. Had she had access to an attorney, many of these defects would undoubtedly not have occurred and the case would have taken a different turn. Depriving Haqiqatpajuh of access to counsel for the greater part of the proceedings jeopardized her right to a defense. This is of such great importance that it can completely invalidate preliminary investigations as well as the court decision.

Judgment

In the spring of 2002, Branch 1601 of the Criminal Court of Tehran condemned Ms. Haqiqatpajuh to death, seven years imprisonment, and paying one thousand Derhma as Dieh to the state. Branch 33 of the Supreme Court confirmed the ruling in October of 2004 and it was sent to Sentence Enforcement for the first time. 

The death sentence against Ms. Haqiqatpajuh by the primary court and its confirmation by the Supreme Court caused a widespread protest by women’s right activists and the human rights international organizations including Amnesty International. In addition, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh’s daughter wrote a letter to Mr. Shahrudi asking to stop the execution of her mother. All these activities resulted in the issuing of an order by Ayatollah Shahrudi, the Head of Judiciary, to stop the enforcement of the sentence and reevaluate the case only minutes before the execution while the noose was tied on the neck of Ms. Haqiqatpajuh on October 13, 2004. Following this order, the case was referred to Branch Two of the Supreme Court. However, this branch’s investigation resulted again in the issuing of the death sentence against Ms. Haqiqatpajuh on March 15, 2006.

On December 2, 2007, the Sentence Enforcement of Tehran Criminal Court arranged a meeting with the victim’s family. During this meeting, Mr. Mohammad’s sister represented her mother and stated that if all personal belongings and memorabilia of her brother were returned to his family, they would pardon the death penalty against Ms. Haqiqatpajuh. This offer was received well by Ms. Haqiqatpajuh, her attorney, and her family. However, ultimately, the death penalty was confirmed. According to the E’temad newspaper, quoting Mr. Khorramshahi, Ms. Haqiqatpajuh asked her family to return all belongings of Mr. Mohammad to his family. But, most of them were already sold and only two bank notebooks and his personal diary had been kept. These were given to the victim’s family but they would not grant a pardon.

Ms. Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh was finally hanged in the Evin Prison on November 26, 2008. Her attorney was informed by a cellmate that his client had been summoned by the Sentence Enforcement of the prison to be executed only a few hours before the execution.

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*In various reports, he was named as Ja’far, Mas’ud, and Bahman.

**According to Article 61** of the Islamic Penal Code, “Whoever commits a crime in defense of his/her life, reputation, honor, or his/her property or another’s property, or saving his body or another’s in face of an actual assault or an imminent danger, will not be prosecuted or punished if the following conditions are met:

1-Defence is compatible with the assault and the danger.

2-Resorting to state force immediately was not possible or the intervention of such force was not effective to prevent the assault and the danger.

In the footnote of this Article is written: “In defense of life, reputation, honor, or property and another’s life, it is permitted when one is unable to defend himself/herself and needs help.”

Therefore, it was sufficient to prove that all these conditions mentioned in Article 61 had been met in this case.   

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