British Columbia

Campaign by Vancouver woman helps jailed Iranian teen

A Vancouver woman who has worked for months to help a jailed Iranian teen is thrilled that a court has overturned a death sentence against the girl.

A Vancouver woman who has worked for months to help a jailed Iranian teen is thrilled that a court has overturned a death sentence against her.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, former Miss World Canada, said "feelings of joy" came when she heard the news this week that Nazanin Fatehi, 19, will be spared from death by hanging. But she said she will continuethe fight to free the young womanfrom prison.

Afshin-Jam has collected more than 300,000 signatures on an online petition, recorded a song and lobbied politicians about the case. She has also worked with human rights organizations to draw attention to the teen's plight.

An Iranian court sentenced Fatehi to death a year ago after she had confessed to stabbing to death one of three men who tried to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park near Tehran in March 2005. She was 17 at the time.

After a retrial last week, the court ruled that Fatehi acted in self defence and has been exonerated from the charge of murder, but used a disproportionate amount of force to fend off one of her attackers.

Three out of five judges said she must pay compensation to the family of thevictimin exchange for a pardon, Afshin-Jam said she was told by Shadi Sadr, one ofFatehi's lawyers.

Afshin-Jam said Monday she is certain that international pressure helped to spare Fatehi, but said the case continues to underscore the status of women in Iran and the injustice that Iranian women face when they get into legal trouble.

"A woman's life is worth half that of a man," she said.

Winner of the Miss World Canada pageant in 2003 and born in Tehran, Afshin-Jam started the campaign last year after she learned about Fatehi.

She has worked on the case alongside Mina Ahadi, head of the International Committee Against Execution and Stoning, a network of about 200 groups trying to end the practice of stoning around the world.

Afshin-Jam said she will continue to collect donations on behalf of Fatehi because of the "blood money" she has been ordered to pay by the court. Fatehi's lawyers are trying to have that ruling set aside as well.

An appeal of the compensation could take months and her lawyers have requested bail so that Nazanin could be released from jail as soon as possible. The court has set bail at more than $40,000 US, according to the Help Nazanin website.

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