Iran hangs woman whom Amnesty says killed man who tried to sexually assault her

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran on Saturday executed a 26-year-old woman who had spent five years on death row for the murder of a former intelligence official, defying international pressure to spare her life.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged at dawn, the official Iran news agency quoted the Teheran prosecutor's office as saying. A message posted on the homepage of a Facebook campaign that was set up to try to save her, but which now states "Rest in Peace", confirmed the report.

Amnesty International said in a statement issued late on Friday that Jabbari, an interior designer, was due to be executed for the 2007 stabbing of Mr Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi. A United Nations human rights monitor had said the killing of Mr Sarbandi was an act of self-defence after he tried to sexually assault Jabbari, and that her trial in 2009 had been deeply flawed.

Iranian actors and other prominent figures had appealed for a stay of execution, echoing similar calls in the West. Efforts for clemency had intensified in recent weeks. Jabbari's mother was allowed to visit her for one hour on Friday, Amnesty said, a custom that tends to precede executions in Iran.

According to the United Nations, more than 250 people have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2014.

The UN and international rights groups had said Jabbari's confession was obtained under intense pressure and threats from Iranian prosecutors, and she should have had a retrial.

Mr Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's human rights rapporteur on Iran, said in April that Mr Sarbandi had offered to hire Jabbari to redesign his office and took her to an apartment where he sexually abused her.

However, Mr Sarbandi's family insists that the murder was premeditated and that Jabbari had confessed to buying a knife two days before the killing.

According to Mr Jalal Sarbandi, the victim's eldest son, Jabbari testified that a man was present in the apartment where his father was killed "but she refuses to reveal his identity".

He told Shargh and Etemad, two of Iran's reformist daily newspapers, in April that his family "would not even contemplate mercy until truth is unearthed".

"Only when her true intentions are exposed and she tells the truth about her accomplice and what really went down will we be prepared to grant mercy," he said at the time.