DUBAI (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Iranian woman convicted of murdering a man she accused of trying to rape her as a teenager was hanged on Saturday, the official news agency IRNA said, despite international pleas for her life to be spared.
Reyhaneh Jabbari walked to the gallows at dawn on Saturday in Tehran's Evin prison after failing to secure a reprieve from the murder victim's relatives within the 10-day deadline set by sharia law in force since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Jabbari had been sentenced to death in accordance Koranic "qisas" (eye for an eye) law after being found guilty of stabbing dead an older man with a kitchen knife seven years ago.
Jabbari had pleaded self defense but failed to sway judges in various stages of appeal, and been kept in prison since her arrest.
Her only hope would have lied with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei whose powers transcend all plural and state mandates. Khamenei has made no mention of the case and he has almost never interfered with Islamic due process, regardless of political considerations.
The death sentence against Jabbari had sparked international condemnation, prompting President Hassan Rouhani's reformist government to step in to get the sentenced repealed.
Justice Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said in early October that were underway to get the death sentence repealed, and a "good ending" was in sight. However, official Iranian media said later the plaintiffs could not be swayed to show lenience.
Immediately after the execution on Saturday, Tehran's Prosecutor's office issued a statement to reverse broad sympathy for Jabbari.
"Jabbari had repeatedly confessed to premeditated murder, then tried to divert the case from its course by inventing the rape charge," said the statement carried by the state IRNA news agency. "But all her efforts to feign innocence were proven false in various phases of prosecution. Evidence was firm. She had informed a friend through text message of her intention to kill. It was ascertained that she had purchased the murder weapon, a kitchen knife, two days before committing murder."
The hanging comes at a particularly bad time for Rouhani who has been treading an elusive path to rapprochement with the West after decades of hostility--rooted in human rights practices, ideological differences and a controversial nuclear program.
Domestically, the president is under fire from secular Iranians, his main political constituency, over a spate of acid attacks on "ill-covered" young women in the ancient city of Isfahan.
Many Iranians believe the attacks are provoked by hardliners trying to undermine social and political reforms promised by Rouhani during his electoral campaigns. But many among the secular voters are frustrated too see domestic reforms taking the backseat to foreign policy and a long uncertain haggling with the West over the nuclear dispute.
(Reporting by Mehrdad Balali; Editing by Mark Heinrich)