An Iranian man who beheaded his 17-year-old wife in February 2022 was sentenced to just eight years and two months in prison on Wednesday, according to the country’s semi-official Khabar Online website, sparking criticism over the leniency of the prison term.
Following the murder of the teenager, a video began circulating online of her husband, Sajjad Heydari, walking in the provincial capital of Ahvaz while smiling and carrying her severed head, IRNA reported.
Local authorities have confirmed that widely shared images that purport to be Heydari are from the same incident, a source with knowledge of the statements told CNN. The video, seen by CNN, showed Heydari holding a knife in one hand and the girl’s head in another.
The short sentence has been condemned by critics, with some pointing to female filmmaker Mozghan Ilanlo, who received a 10-year jail sentence for removing her headscarf.
In response to a question about the sentence, spokesman of Iran’s Judiciary Massoud Setayesh said the husband was “convicted of stewardship in intentional murder, intentional assault, and disturbing public order. A second defendant,” who is the victim’s brother-in-law, “has been convicted of being an assistant in an intentional murder.”
The judiciary spokesman said a death penalty was not issued because the family of the victim has forgiven the defendant. They “announced their forgiveness and since this part of the charge, in regard to the private aspect of this case, is qualified, it has resulted in the issuance of the suspension order, but the public aspect of the crime remains,” he said.
“Accordingly, in terms of the public aspect of the crime, the first-row defendant, in respect to stewardship of intentional murder, has been sentenced to seven and a half years imprisonment and in terms of the public aspect of the crime, to eight months in prison,” the judiciary spokesperson added.
The spokesman also stated that “the second-row defendant (the victim’s brother-in-law) was also sentenced to 45 months’ imprisonment for assisting in an intentional murder.”
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When the story was published for the first time, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) referred to the alleged murder as a so-called “honor killing.”
The victim had fled to Turkey four months before being persuaded to return to Iran by her father, according to an interview with the girl’s mother-in-law, published on Fars back in 2022.
The girl was 12 years old at the time of her marriage to Heydari, according to IRNA.
In an interview with the girl’s father, published in Fars in 2022, he is quoted as saying that he had obtained a legal certificate allowing his daughter to be married. The minimum age of marriage in Iran is 13 for girls and 15 for boys. CNN has been unable to confirm her husband’s age.
The crime comes years after after another high profile “honor killing,” in which a 14-year-old was allegedly killed by her father with a sickle after she ran away from her family home in northern Iran’s Talesh County with a 29-year-old man.
For years, Iranian women’s rights activists have campaigned for strengthened domestic violence laws in the country.
This comes after the country has been roiled in nationwide protests over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman accused of flouting the country’s compulsory hijab laws. Iran has cracked down by executing protesters, accused of killing security forces, which critics say were the result of hasty sham trials.