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Former Canadian beauty queen lobbies to save Iranian teen

A former Canadian beauty queen from Vancouver who is on a campaign to help a jailed Iranian teenager is awaiting the verdict of a new trial that could save the girl from a death sentence.

A former Canadian beauty queen ona campaign tohelp ajailedIranianteenageris awaiting the verdict of a new trial that could save the girlfroma death sentence.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, former Miss World Canada, is urging Canadians to lobby the Iranian government until a written verdict inNazanin Fatehi'sretrial is delivered in a few days.

Afshin-Jam, a Vancouver resident, has been fighting for months on behalf of Fatehi, 19.

An Iranian court sentenced Fatehi to death by hanging a year ago. Shehad 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. She was 17 at the time.

The death sentence was stayed in June and a new trial ordered. The first phase of the second trial took place in last August. According to a posting on her website, Afshin-Jam said it concluded in Tehran on Wednesday morning, drawing an estimated 200 people in support of Fatehi.

Afshin-Jam said she was told by the International Committee Against Execution that Shadi Sadr, a lawyer for Fatehi, spoke in her defence. But until the written verdict is delivered,Afshin-Jam is urging Canadians to continue to sign her online petition, whichdemands that the Iranian government spare Fatehi's life.

So far, she has collected more than 295,000 signatures.

Raises awareness about teen's fate

"Until we receive the written verdict in hand, we encourage everyone to sign the petition and spread awareness of the situation," she writes.

Afshin-Jam, who won the Miss World Canada pageant in 2003 and was born in Tehran,started the campaign last year after she learned of the case. She is now the spokesperson for an internationaleffort to save Fatehi.

The European Union has condemned the death sentence, while Amnesty International is also fighting for her to be spared.

"Urgent action is needed to help save a young life whose only crime was an attempt to defend herself," the petition reads. "Nazanin and many like her are caught between two undesirable options.

"On one hand, [the] Iranian Penal Code severely limits the possibility of using 'self-defence' as a legitimate defence to aggression. On the other hand, if Nazanin had allowed the rape to take place, she could still be imprisoned, flogged or stoned for having sex outside of marriage unless four male witnesses to the actual rape would testify on her behalf."

Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Charter of the Rights of the Child, and therefore is under obligation not to impose the death penalty on people under 18.

But according to the petition, Amnesty International says there have been 18 executions of child offenders in Iran since 1990.

A trust fund has been set up that has given Fatehi access to a lawyer.

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