Canada

Former Miss Canada helps free jailed Iranian teen

A teenage girl sentenced to death in Iran was released from jail Wednesday, much to the relief of a Canadian woman who fought for 10 months to free her.

A teenage girl sentenced to death in Iran was released from jail Wednesday, much to the relief of a Canadian woman who fought 10 months to free her.

Vancouver singer Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who was once crowned Miss World Canada, said she is ecstatic that 19-year-old Nazanin Fatehi has been freed.

"I can't tell you how happy I am," Afshin-Jam told CBC News. "I spoke to Nazanin this morning and she's extremely happy and she's reunited with her family."

Fatehi was sent to death row a year ago after she confessed to stabbing and killing one of three men who tried to rape her and her 16-year-old niece. The attack happened in a parknear Tehran in 2005, when Fatehi was just 17.

In early January, an Iranian court overturned the death sentence and ruled that Fatehi was acting in self-defence. She was exonerated from the charge of murder, but the court ruled she must pay compensation to the family of the man she stabbed in exchange for the pardon.

Wednesday, she was released on bail while her lawyers appeal the compensation ruling.

Afshin-Jam first heard of Fatehi's plight 10 months ago, and has fought on her behalf ever since. Afshin-Jam collected a petition with 350,000 signatures and she lobbied world organizations like the United Nations.

Afshin-Jam, who was born in Tehran, spoke to Fatehi for the first time Wednesday, reaching her by telephone.

"It was the first time I'd heard her voice and the first time she heard mine. I think we were both in a bit of shock," Afshin-Jam said.

Afshin-Jam said Fatehi wants to go to school, study hard and get her life back. The teen only has a Grade 2 or Grade 3 education.

Afshin-Jam, who won the Miss World Canada pageant in 2003, said she now plans to focus on her music career, which was put on hold while she fought on Fatehi's behalf.Afshin-Jamwants to speak about social issues through her songs.

She will also continue to fight for human rights overseas.

"There are 23 other minors on death row in Iran, so the fight isn't over," she said.

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