Footballers wife faces execution in Iran next Wednesday

Khadijeh Jahed, also known as Shahla, is set to be executed in Iran next Wednesday, the 1st of December, according to Iranian media. She is the ‘temporary wife’ of Nasser Mohammad-Khani, a former striker for the Iranian national football team, and was originally sentenced to death back in 2004 for murdering his ‘permanent’ wife .

She "confessed" to the killing in pre-trial detention after 11 months in detention, but withdrew her "confession" in court, saying, "Everyone knows the conditions under which I confessed” (meaning under duress). She was also sentenced to three years' imprisonment, but has now spent over nine years in prison.  

The execution is likely to be by hanging.

Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all its forms and for all crimes. But in this case, as in many death penalty cases, there is the added issue that Shahla may have been coerced into making a confession during her interrogation. We’ve been campaigning for Shahla Jahed's death sentence to be overturned since 2005 – you can take action by sending an email appeal to the Iranian authorities here.

Last week (16 November) a report in the newspaper Vatan-e Emrooz said her execution has been set for 1 December 2010 if she is not pardoned by the victim's family. Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, has told the Iranian Students' News Agency that he has not yet been notified of the date for her execution, which in law must be communicated at least 48 hours beforehand.

Under Iranian law, men and women can marry either permanently or temporarily. In a temporary marriage, men and women can commit to be married for an agreed period of time, on payment of an agreed sum of money to the woman, after which the marriage is null and void. Men can have up to four permanent wives, and any number of temporary wives. Women can only be married to one man at a time. It’s one of various ways in which women are discriminated against in the Iranian legal system.

The case itself is not short of drama. Here’s what The Independent’s Angus McDowell had to say back in 2006:

“The original 2004 trial captivated Iran with its cocktail of tearful confessions, spirited denials, anguished pledges of eternal love, admissions of betrayal and pleas for mercy. At the centre of it all stood Shahla, a sassy but tragic figure, one minute haranguing the judge, the next flirting with him and all the time playing to a riveted gallery. Documentary footage of her trial veers between the public vulgarity of The Jerry Springer Show and high opera of Carmen.”

The footballer, Nasser Mohammad-Khani, was abroad at the time of the murder. However he was initially suspected of complicity in the crime and was detained for some months, but he was later released after Shahla Jahed "confessed" to the crime.

Of course the story does bear some similarity to the lurid tales of our own footballers’ private lives (he even plays in the same position as messrs. Crouch and Rooney). The BBC reported that Khani maintained his relationship with Shahla for four years, and that the court sentenced him to 74 lashes after hearing that he had smoked opium with her.

But ultimately it’s a lot more serious than a tabloid tale. This time next week, Shahla Jahed will hang if the execution is not stopped.

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