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

Fatemeh Haqiqatpajuh


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


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

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 may have been violated in this case:

  • The right to equality before the law and the right to equal protection of the law.

UDHR, Article 7; ICCPR, Article 26.

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 counsel of one’s own choosing or the right to legal aid. The right to communicate with one’s attorney in confidence

ICCPR, Article 14.3.b and Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1, Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.

  • 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 examine, or have examined, the witnesses against one, and the right to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on one’s behalf under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.d and Article 14.3.e.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

ICCPR, Article 14.1.

Judgment rights

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

ICCPR, Article 6.4.

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

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)


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.


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.


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.


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.


*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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