Family pardons Iranian who killed would-be rapist in self-defense

? A woman who spent seven years on death row in Iran has been spared execution by the family of the police chief she stabbed to death and sexually mutilated for trying to rape her.

The death sentence for Afsaneh Nowrouzi raised an outcry from activists and drew the attention of international groups who sought to overturn the order.

This week, following mediation by the judiciary, the family of Behzad Moghaddam agreed to accept compensation of $62,500 instead of Nowrouzi’s execution.

“With the efforts of judiciary officials, family members of the victim were persuaded to give up retribution in this case and signed in a notary public office not to demand death for Nowrouzi in exchange for blood money,” said Mohsen Yektan-Khodaei, a top provincial judiciary official.

Another official said Nowrouzi, 34, was expected to be released from prison soon.

In 1997, Nowrouzi killed Moghaddam, the police chief on Kish island in the Persian Gulf. Her lawyer said she also cut off his penis and placed it on his chest, a previously confidential detail that will be sure to shock this conservative country, where even talking about sex is taboo.

The court rejected her self-defense claim, convicting her of murder and sentencing her to death. She has been held in a prison in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas ever since.

The case highlighted how difficult it can be for Iranian women to obtain justice against rapists. Unless a woman has very strong evidence, it is very difficult to prove she was raped, and sometimes she ends up being charged with adultery or illicit sex, which carry the death penalty. If she kills the attempted rapist, she can be tried for murder and also sentenced to death.

Afsaneh Nowrouzi smiles at a court in Kish island, Iran, in this Dec. 21, 2004, photo. Nowrouzi, who spent seven years on death row, has been pardoned by the family of the police officer she stabbed to death, a judiciary official said Wednesday.

Iran’s Supreme Court initially upheld the Nowrouzi’s death sentence, but last year, under intense international pressure, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi ordered a stay of the verdict.

The Supreme Court took a second look at the case and overturned the death sentence due to “technical deficiencies.” It ordered a new ruling.

As the court was readdressing the case, judiciary officials intervened with Moghaddam’s family.

Women’s activist and lawyer Sara Irani praised the resolution of the case.

“Nowrouzi’s freedom will give new breath to women to find the courage to stand up for their rights and defend themselves,” Irani said.