Jewish Iranian sentenced to death for murder receives last-minute stay of execution

Arvin Nathaniel Ghahremani was allegedly defending himself against knife attack when he killed Amir Shokri in brawl; international rights groups working to have sentenced commuted

Arvin Nathaniel Ghahremani, 20, an Iranian Jew set to be executed in May 2024 (Iran Human Rights)
Arvin Nathaniel Ghahremani, 20, an Iranian Jew set to be executed in May 2024 (Iran Human Rights)

A Jewish Iranian man who was set to be executed this week for killing a man in a brawl two years ago received a last-minute stay of execution on Sunday, postponing his death for an additional month.

Arvin Nathaniel Ghahremani, 20, was sentenced to death and was expected to be executed on Monday under the Iranian penal code for retributive justice — or “Qisas” in Arabic — after allegedly killing a man named as Amir Shokri in self-defense when attacked with a knife two years ago, the opposition-linked Iran International news website said last week.

In a last-minute turn of events, however, he received a stay of execution amid extensive efforts by his family and international human rights organization to have his sentence commuted, Ynet reported, citing unnamed sources in the Iranian Jewish community.

Under Iranian law, once a person is found guilty of intentional murder, the only way that the death sentence can be commuted is if the family of the deceased says it forgives the perpetrator.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Iranian law states that if a non-Muslim kills a Muslim, Qisas can be applied and the perpetrator can be sentenced to death. However, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim in Iran, Qisas does not apply and no punishment is handed down, leading human rights experts to argue that the law discriminates unfairly against minority groups in Iran.

Last week, the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported that Ghahremani’s family had been told they had until Monday to appeal to Shokri’s family to agree to forgo the execution and to settle for a large monetary sum instead.

IHR carried a voice recording from Ghahremani’s mother pleading for people to pray for her son to be saved.

Jewish-Iranian lawyers in the US were also reported by Ynet to have assisted in efforts to have Ghahremani’s execution canceled, and an appeal for international intervention was sent to several countries, including Germany and Russia.

The reason for the last-minute postponement of Ghahremani’s execution was not made clear, and Ynet did not confirm whether Shokri’s family had agreed to commute his sentence.

Video circulated on social media last week apparently showed prayers being held for Ghahremani at the Rachel’s Tomb pilgrimage site in the central West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were some 100,000 Jews in Iran; by 2016, according to an Iranian census, that number had fallen to below 10,000.

Iran is openly sworn to Israel’s destruction and financially supports terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that are also committed to this aim.

Prominent figures in the Jewish community of Iran intermittently issue anti-Israel statements that match the regime’s agenda.

According to IHR, Iran has carried out at least 223 executions this year, with at least 50 of those having been carried out in the first half of May.

Amnesty International said last month that Iran executed 853 people in 2023, the highest total since 2015.

The Iranian authorities have “persisted with their state-sanctioned killing spree which has turned prisons into killing fields,” Amnesty said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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