No Peace

10.29.14 9:45 AM ET

The Real Reason Iran Killed This Woman for Defending Herself

The execution of Reyhanneh Jabbari has brought worldwide condemnation of the Tehran regime. But the critics may be missing the real story.

Long before Reyhanneh Jabbari was executed in Iran this weekend, she was tortured and beaten for months—and then sent to one of Iran’s most notorious prisons, one of her lawyers claimed. Her crime? Killing the man who tried to rape her when she was just 19.

“They kept her in a solitary cell where she was chained,” Jabbari’s first lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “They would blindfold her sometimes for days and they beat her face and her head.”

Jabbari’s execution Saturday was widely condemned by human-rights groups such as Amnesty International on the grounds that it illustrates how Iran’s own legal system is prejudiced against women. (She was initially charged with the crime in 2007.)

But Mostafaei said this was not right lesson to draw from the case. Instead, the exiled lawyer said Jabbari’s case illustrated how members of Iran’s intelligence and security services were effectively above the law.

Jabbari was charged with murdering Morteza Abolali Sarbandi, a member of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

Mostafaei spoke to The Daily Beast from Geneva, where he is scheduled participate on a panel of  dissidents and other experts to document Iran’s systematic abuses of human rights, organized by UN Watch, a group devoted to exposing the hypocrisy of the United Nations’ own human-rights body.

The event is scheduled to coincide with the UN Human Rights Council’s one-year review of human rights in Iran.

Mostafaei said he believed the UN body’s work on Iran was important for letting the outside world know about the state of affairs in his own country. But he said, “The UN council does nothing for people living in Iran.”

Mostafaei said Jabbari was lured to the apartment of the man from the intelligence service. That’s where he attempted to rape her, the lawyer claimed. Jabbari only stabbed him with a pen knife, but did not kill him. The lawyer asserted that an autopsy of Sarbandi showed how the pen knife wound was itself not fatal. Instead, a second man (also with Iran’s intelligence service) came to the apartment at this time and murdered Sarbandi. In the trial, Jabbari only referred to this second man as “Sheikhi.”

While Jabbari confessed in police custody to the murder, Mostafaei said her confession was the result of torture.

“Sheikhi and Sarbandi were members of the intelligence service,” Mostafaei said. “They used their influence with the judge. The court was not fair. If Mr. Sarbandi was an ordinary person, I am sure the judges would not convict Reyhanneh to death.”

Mostafaei had to drop Jabbari’s case in 2010, the year he was exiled after taking up the case of another woman who was sentenced by an Iranian court to be stoned to death. Eventually that client was pardoned. Jabbari received no such relief.