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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights investigator on Monday expressed shock at Iran's weekend execution of a 26-year-old woman convicted of murdering a man she accused of trying to rape her as a teenager, saying he had repeatedly voiced concerns to Tehran about her trial.
Reyhaneh Jabbari walked to the gallows at dawn on Saturday in Tehran's Evin prison after failing to secure a reprieve from the dead man's relatives within the 10-day deadline set by sharia law in force since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"I was shocked over the weekend by the execution of Ms. Reyhaneh Jabbari," the U.N. special rapporteur on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, told reporters.
"I have raised issues about her conviction on several occasions with the government of Iran and have not received a satisfactory reply with regard to the points raised, essentially about the fairness of the trial that she was given," he added.
The death sentence sparked U.S. and European Union condemnation and the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who won election last year on promises of liberal reform at home and easing Iran's isolation abroad, to intervene to get it commuted.
Asked about the execution, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opposed capital punishment in all cases.
Shaheed, who briefs a General Assembly human rights committee on Tuesday, noted "a surge in executions in the country over the past 12-15 months" - roughly corresponding to the time Rouhani has been in office.
"At least 852 individuals were executed in the period since June of last year, including eight juveniles," he said. "I also noted a widening of the range of offenses for which people are being put to death, including economic crimes as well as in some cases, clear political activities."
He did not specify a rate of increase since Rouhani took office, but Shaheed's new report to the General Assembly notes that the number of executions in 2013 in Iran increased to some 687 from 580 in 2012.
He declined to point a finger at the Rouhani administration for the increase, noting that the presidency is not all-powerful in Iran. Other power centers are the parliament and the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on key matters of state.
Shaheed also criticized Iran's record on freedom of information. He said about 35 journalists are under detention in the country.
Another problem is religious persecution in the Islamic Republic. Shaheed said at least 300 people are under detention because of their religious practices, including 120 members of the Baha'i community, 49 Christians, Dervishes and practitioners of other faiths.
He also said the situation of women in the Islamic Republic has deteriorated, adding that the number of women enrolled at Iranian universities has decreased to 48 percent in 2013-2014 from 62 percent in 2007-2008.
Iran's U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Richard Chang