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Iran: Child offender facing execution for killing in self-defence after being attacked with nun-chuks

Iranian child offender Reza Alinejad is at imminent risk of execution for a crime he committed at the age of 17. He has been granted a month to obtain the required diyeh (financial compensation) for the victim’s family. If he is unable to raise one billion Iranian rials (approximately US $100, 000) it is likely he will be executed. Amnesty members around the world are urgently appealing to the Iranian authorities to stop his execution.

Reza Alinejad’s family have put their house up for sale but are worried that even if sold it will not fetch the amount required to meet the diyeh. Reza Alinejad’s father went to court in early November and was told that they were required to raise the funds for the next meeting scheduled for one month later.

On 26 December 2002, Reza Alinejad, then aged 17, was walking with his friend Hadi Abedini in a street in Fasa, a city near Shiraz in central Iran. They were attacked by two men, Esmail Daroudi and Mohammad Firouzi, with a nunchaku (or nun-chuks) a martial arts weapon.

To protect himself and his friend from the attack, Reza Alinejad took a knife out of his pocket. Reza claims to have held out the knife in front of him with his right hand and with his left hand he protected his head from being hit by the nunchaku. During the struggle, Reza Alinejad claims he accidentally stabbed and killed Esmail Daroudi.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The death penalty is brutal and wrong in all cases, but it’s all the more shocking when it’s applied to someone who was so young at the time of the offence, and who appears to have been defending himself from attack.

“Iran should look around at the rest of the world, which is moving away from killing in the name of justice. As a first step it should stop the execution of all child offenders.”

During the investigation, Mohammad Firouzi reportedly admitted that he and Esmail Daroudi had started the fight and attacked Reza and his friend, and that the latter two had been forced to defend themselves. Reza Alinejad and Hadi Abedini were injured in the attack and needed hospital treatment. An eyewitness to the attack also said that Reza Alinejad’s actions had been in legitimate self-defence to protect himself and his friend. In spite of these testimonies and the claim by Reza Alinejad's that he stabbed the man in self-defence, he was sentenced to qesas (retribution) for murder by the Provincial Court in Fasa on 4 October 2003.

In December 2004 the Supreme Court quashed the death sentence, accepting that Reza Alinejad had acted in self-defence. The court acknowledged that the instigators of the dispute were the dead man and his friend and that they had attacked Reza Alinejad and Hadi Abedini and that the stabbing had not been intentional.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court for investigation. The case was heard by branch 101 of Fasa Provincial Criminal Court, which on 15 June 2005 again sentenced Reza Alinejad to death. The court concluded that Reza could have fled the scene and had therefore acted unreasonably. On 9 May 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence.

Reza Alinejad has been detained in Adelabad prison in Shiraz since his arrest.

Iran is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child both of which expressly prohibit the use of the death penalty against anyone convicted of a crime committed when they were under 18. However, since 1990 Iran has executed at least 40 child offenders.

In Iran a convicted murderer has no right to seek pardon or commutation from the state, though this right is protected by Article 6(4) of the ICCPR. The family of a murder victim has the right either to insist on execution or to pardon the killer and receive financial compensation. The Iranian authorities contend that qesas – the sentence for convicted murderers – is not execution, despite the face that people sentenced to qesas are put to death by the state. This contention is not accepted in international law. The vast majority of child offenders on death row in Iran have been sentenced to qesas for murder.

For more information about executions of child offenders in Iran, see “Iran: The last executioner of Children's rights” (June 2007),

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