Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

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’ Adelabad 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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