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

Seyedeh Fatemeh Salbehi


Age: 23
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Married


Date of Execution: October 13, 2015
Location: Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of offense: 17

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 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.

  • The right of a person not to be subjected to the capital punishment for an offence committed before the age of eighteen. The right not to be deprived of life while pregnant.

ICCPR, Article 6.5; Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37.a.

About this Case

Ms. Salbehi had married the victim under pressure from her family. She was only 17 years old at the time of the murder

News of Ms. Fatemeh Salbehi’s execution was published by several media including Sharq newspaper (October 14, 2015), HRANA News Agency (October 13, 2015), and Amnesty International (October 14, 2015). Additional information was obtained through research conducted by the Boroumand Foundation and from the Foundation’s interview with a person with knowledge of the case, reporting from Sharq newspaper (May 14, 2014), and other sources.

Ms. Seyedeh Fatemeh Salbehi, child of Seyed Ehsan, was born on November 8, 1991, in Neyriz’ village in Abadeh Tashk, Fars Province, and resided in Shiraz. Her family forced her to marry at the age of 15, and she divorced her first husband after a short while because of his violent and suspicious nature.  After the divorce, at her family’s insistence and to escape social stigma, she had to marry one of her relatives who was an employee of the Shiraz Judiciary’s Dispute Resolution Council. At the time of the incident she had not yet started living with her husband and was still a high school student. Ms. Salbehi had some problems with her husband, but they had been reconciled by the day of the incident and Salbehi had gone to her husband’s home to eat food they had purchased. Ms. Salbehi’s husband had previously been the person in charge of Shahid Dastgheib Mosque’s cultural office, located in Shiraz’ Valiasr Street, and still lived in a room on the second floor of the Mosque that the Basij had put at his disposal. Ms. Salbehi’s case is related to her husband’s murder (Documents available at the Boroumand Foundation).

Arrest and detention

Ms. Fatemeh Salbehi was arrested on April 20, 2009, by Shiraz’ Valiasr Police Precinct officers. She was 17 years old at the time of her arrest. Based on available information, the police became suspicious of the Defendant [Ms. Salbehi], who was with her husband on the night of the event, after his body was discovered at his place of residence. Ms. Salbehi had spent the night at that location, had skipped school the next day. and had gone to the library to study. Following a call from the school, her parents went to her husband’s place to obtain news of their daughter. There they became aware of his death.

There is no information about the manner of Ms. Salbehi’s arrest. She was taken to Shiraz’ Criminal Investigations Bureau after the arrest.

The Shiraz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office opened a case against Ms. Salbehi. She admitted to her husband’s murder under the pressure of interrogations at the Criminal Investigations Bureau as well as during investigations at the Prosecutor’s Office. Based on available information, Ms. Salbehi stated during interrogations that she had been forced to get married by her family, that she had problems with her husband, and that she had decided to kill him because of the hatred she felt for him. She stated during interrogations that, with prior intent, she had given him sleep medication and had injected him with air, and had then strangled him with a laptop wire. With the information Ms. Salbehi provided them, the Police found the objects used to commit the crime in a garbage bin near the crime scene. Based on available documentation, Ms. Salbehi explained the way the murder was committed during a crime scene reconstruction (Documents available at the Boroumand Foundation).

Ms. Salbehi spent more than six years at Shiraz’ Vakilabad Prison after her arrest.


Ms. Salbehi’s case was tried once at the trial court, was sent to the Supreme Court on appeal, was remanded to another trial court and was tried again, and sent to the Supreme Court once more on appeal.

Ms. Salbehi denied the charge of murder, saying she had been pressured into a false confession at the Criminal Investigations Office

Fars Province Criminal Court Branch Five, made up of five judges, first tried Ms. Salbehi’s case, the first session taking place on May 5, 2010. Ms. Salbehi’s attorney, who had not had an opportunity to meet with his client and take over the case at the investigations stage, was present at trial (Documents available at the Boroumand Foundation).

Following Ms. Salbehi’s attorney’s appeal to the Supreme Court, the case was remanded and heard by the Fars Province Appellate Court Branch Five on June 17, 2010. Ms. Salbehi’s attorney asked for a new trial once again, citing Islamic Penal Code Article 91 which came into force on June 12, 2013, stating that the Defendant was under the age of 18 at the time of the murder. According to said Article, children under the age of 18 who have not attained full mental development and maturity will not be subject to the death penalty. Upon her attorney’s request, Ms. Salbehi’s case was remanded to another trial court, the Fars Province Criminal Court Branch Four, on that basis. The trial took place on May 14, 2014, with the judges, the plaintiff, the Defendant, and their attorneys in attendance.


Based on the Court Decision, Ms. Fatemeh Salbehi’s charge was “intentional murder” of her spouse.

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

Evidence of guilt

The Medical Examiner’s report (issued upon examination of the victim’s body) stating pressure on the vital elements of the neck as the cause of death, was among the evidence presented at trial against Ms. Salbehi. Furthermore, regarding Ms. Salbehi’s mental health, the Medical Examiner stated that she was not psychotic or insane, but that she did suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. According to the Court Decision, Ms. Salbehi’s express confession during interrogations and in preliminary investigations at the prosecutor’s office and the Criminal Investigations Bureau, along with the Police Force Identification Office’s report to the effect that it had found her fingerprints at the crime scene, were also presented as evidence of the crime. Additionally, [records of the] interrogation of certain people including the employees of a pharmacy Ms. Salbehi had gone to, her classmate, and some of the employees of the Mosque where the victim resided, were considered by the court as evidence (Documents available at the Boroumand Foundation research).

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.


Ms. Salbehi did not have access to her attorney during interrogations at the Criminal Investigations Bureau and in the preliminary investigations at the Prosecutor’s Office. Ms. Salbehi and her attorney denied the charge of intentional murder at the original trial. Based on available information, Ms. Salbehi denied her previous confession in open court and before the panel of judges, and said that three other people had committed the murder, one of whom she knew. Stating that she was under pressure at the Criminal Investigations Bureau and was forced to make a false confession, she added: “The Criminal Investigations officer tricked me at the crime scene re-construction. He told me that if I admitted to the murder nothing would happen.” She explained that her spouse had a headache, that she went to the pharmacy to get some medicine, and that there were two men and a woman in the room when she returned. While threatening Ms. Salbehi, those individuals injected her spouse with air and strangled him. According to Ms. Salbehi, she observed the event from outside the room. In response to the judges’ question as to why she had made these statements during investigations and in prison prior to trial, she said: “I told this to the Criminal Investigations officer, but they didn’t believe me and said I was lying and tore up my statement…The interrogator told me that if I said that I had killed Hamed, they would release me and my parents, and he put mental pressure on me.” Her statements were not accepted. The Court made no effort to find the three people Ms. Salbehi had alluded to as her spouse’s killers (Documents available at the Boroumand Foundation research).

“The Criminal Investigations Officer tricked me during the reconstruction of the murder scene. He told me that if I admitted to the murder charge nothing would happen.” 

In defense of her client, Ms. Salbehi’s attorney stated that the investigations at the Prosecutor’s Office were incomplete and defective, and that Ms. Salbehi could not have committed murder by herself. Her attorney stated that Ms. Salbehi was innocent and raised the following objections:

1. The file, as sent to the trial court, was defective, and the defects in the investigations mentioned by the assistant prosecutor were not addressed.

2. Commission of such a murder at the hands of a 17-year-old girl, by herself, seems improbable and she most certainly had accomplices.

3. The court did not question the witnesses that were outside.

4. The Defendant discussed other people’s involvement in the murder with her relatives (her aunt and uncle) as well as the Criminal Investigations officers, but they did not believe her and forced her to admit to the murder under mental pressure; the inconsistency with what was said in court is demonstrative of that fact.

5. The reason the attorney did not know about the participation of others in the murder was that the investigating judge did not allow the attorney to read the case file and meet with the Defendant; the attorney’s retainer agreement was not attached to the indictment sent to the trial court by the investigating judge, and that was why the trial judge asked the Defendant to choose a lawyer.

6. It is not clear where the victim’s cell phone is and this shows that other people were involved in the murder.

7. The trial court did not question the Mosque watchman who had said that he had observed suspicious persons coming and going, nor did the court question the Defendant’s aunt and uncle and her classmate who has changed her address since the murder and had made conflicting statements at the Criminal Investigations Bureau.

8. The person whose SIM card was discovered in the victim’s cell phone long after the murder, was never identified.

9. The trial court did not heed the attorney’s four requests to identify the suspects.

On July 24, 2010, Ms. Salbehi’s attorney submitted a second brief to the court for review, which contained the Defendant’s new statements made in jail. According to these statements, Ms. Salbehi identified one of her classmates and a man as accomplices and said that after she had discussed her problems with her husband, the classmate had asked her to bring money for her to give to the man so that he could eliminate her husband. Ms. Salbehi said that she took her father’s money, gave it to her classmate, and they planned and implemented the murder.

Stating these defects and the Defendant’s new statement, Ms. Salbehi’s attorney asked that the court decision be set aside and that the principal in the murder and the accomplices be arrested (Documents available at the Boroumand Foundation research).

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

The Defendant and her attorney stated in court that other individuals had committed the murder. Although Ms. Salbehi had confessed to the murder in preliminary investigations and the confession appears to be true, it was, however, necessary that the court take steps to find the three individuals identified and to interrogate them as well. The trial court held just one session and issued its ruling after the court was adjourned. This indicates that Ms. Salbehi’s defense was not thoroughly looked into.

Ms. Salbehi did not have an attorney in the preliminary investigations stage. Her attorney stated that he was not allowed to meet with his client at the Prosecutor’s Office and take the case on, whereas the law provides that the presence of an attorney is mandatory in the adjudication process in crimes such as the one being discussed. Pursuant to the Law on the Rules of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts, Note 1 to Article 186, “If in crimes for which the law has mandated the punishments of Qesas of life, execution, stoning, and life imprisonment, the defendant does not personally introduce an attorney, it is mandatory that a court-appointed attorney be designated.” The meaning of this provision is that it is necessary for the Defendant to have access to an attorney not only at trial, but in all stages, including preliminary investigations.

The new Islamic Penal Code has provided for certain measures in order to prevent the application of the death penalty to individuals under 18 who have attained puberty. Article 91 of the Code provides: “In crimes requiring Hadd or Qesas, if the individuals under the age of 18 who have attained puberty cannot comprehend the nature of the crime or the prohibition thereof, or if there is doubt as to their mental development [and capacity] and maturity, they will be sentenced to the punishments prescribed in this chapter on a case by case basis. Note: In order to ascertain mental development and maturity, the court may obtain the medical examiner’s opinion, or utilize any other method it deems appropriate.” Ms. Salbehi’s attorney asked that this provision be applied in this case. The Supreme Court granted the request and remanded the case to another Province Criminal Court branch, but the judges of said branch did not consider the provision applicable to her. Relying on the Medical Examiner’s report, the panel of judges ruled that she knew the nature of her actions, whereas the Medical Examiner had simply confirmed that she was not insane or psychotic, not that she had reached mental development and maturity. In any event, it seems that the Province Criminal Court Branch Four judges found her to be an adult with a fully developed mind, without conducting the necessary investigations into her mental development and maturity at the time of the murder. 


On May 5, 2010, the Fars Province Criminal Court Branch Five presiding judge and the other four judges sentenced Ms. Fatemeh Salbehi to death (Qesas of life) for the “intentional murder” of her spouse. The court found Ms. Salbehi’s defense without merit. The case was sent to Supreme Court Branch Fourteen upon appeal by Ms. Salbehi’s attorney. The Branch heard the case on August 28, 2010 and upheld the trial court’s decision.

Upon the passage of the new Islamic Penal Code in 2013 and the provision of certain measures to prevent individuals under 18 years of age from being subjected to the death penalty, Fatemeh Salbehi, through her attorney, requested the application of the new Islamic Penal Code Article 91. Her case was sent to Supreme Court Branch Fourteen; the Branch judges accepted Ms. Salbehi’s request and remanded the case for a new trial on September 21, 2013. The case was sent to Fars Province Criminal Court Branch Four. On May 14, 2014, this Branch dismissed Ms. Salbehi and her attorney’s defense and sentenced her to death (Qesas of life). The Branch judges argued that Ms. Salbehi was aware of the nature of her actions and had reached [the requisite] mental development. The court decision referred to the Medical Examiner’s report stating that the Defendant was neither insane nor psychotic at the time of the commission of the murder. The efforts of Ms. Salbehi’s family and attorney to obtain the victim’s family’s forgiveness bore no fruit. According to a person with knowledge of the case, Shiraz Judiciary’s Office for the Protection of Women and Children, which normally tries to obtain the next of kin’s forgiveness in such cases, refused to do so in Ms. Salbehi’s case, saying “we cannot intervene in this case because the victim was our former colleague.”

On the morning of October 13, 2015, Ms. Fatemeh Salbehi was hanged at Shiraz’ Adelabad Prison.

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