GENEVA Iran defended itself on Friday against Western accusations of repression and a sharp rise in executions, including that of a woman hanged for murdering a man she accused of trying to rape her.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, part of its judiciary, lashed out at what he called attempts to "impose your lifestyle under the banner of human rights", including gay rights.
The exchange took place during a more than three hour-long review in the U.N. Human Rights Council of Tehran's record.
Reyhaneh Jabbari was hanged on Saturday in Tehran's Evin prison for the killing. The dead man's relatives had refused to grant her a reprieve within a 10-day deadline set by sharia law, in force since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"We were not successful to solicit forgiveness from the hearts of victims ... We are very sorry that two nationals lost lives, but capital punishment or 'qisas' is a unique particularity of our system. I think it is worth it for Western countries to look into it," Larijani said.
"The idea that only good things in western community -- the 'West and the rest' -- this is a very destructive idea of human rights," he said.
Larijani said he had asked the man's relatives to forgive Jabbari and spare her life. "Unfortunately we were not able, perhaps one reason for that was the huge propaganda that was created against this case."
Canada's ambassador Elissa Golberg told the U.N. council she regretted "Iran's failure to apply standards of due process and rule of law" in the case.
Shadi Sadr, an Iranian lawyer who defended Jabbari at her first two trials, said at a briefing later she had reported having been tortured.
The man she killed had worked for intelligence forces, according to Sadr, who fled Iran in 2009.
Sadr, referring to the first judge in the case, said: "The head of the branch told all of us, the lawyers, Reyhaneh and her family that 'I will give you the death sentence, don't waste my time because she is guilty and has to be executed'."
Larijani said that due process and the independence of Iran's judiciary was enshrined in its constitution and laws. Judicial and prison staff were being trained in human rights.
Iran did not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or religion, and "all nationals of Iran are equal before the law".
Iranian activists in exile accused Tehran's delegation of dodging questions from member states or misleading them.
"They were not coming here to answer any questions, they are just playing games," Mohammad Nayyeri, a member of the Iranian Bar Association living in exile, told a news briefing.
"There is no appeal for drug offences. Stoning is still in the new penal code," he added.
The debate was part of the U.N. council's examination of every U.N. member state's record every four years.
"There are continued reports of government harassment towards members of religious minorities. Journalists have been arrested, detained or prevented from doing their work," U.S. ambassador Keith Harper said in a speech.
He urged Iran to release Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter detained since July, "to demonstrate its commitment to freedom of expression".
Rezaian, a dual Iranian-American national, has been based in Tehran since 2008. The two states have no diplomatic ties. This month Iran released his wife, an Iranian journalist, on bail after more than two months held without charge.
Britain's deputy ambassador Mark Matthews voiced concern at a "sharp increase in executions in Iran over the past year".
"We note with concern continued widespread discrimination against minority religious groups, particularly the Baha'is and Christians, and the reported harassment, interrogation and detention of journalists and human rights defenders," he said.
Diane Ala'i, Geneva representative of the Baha'is, a minority not represented in the constitution, told reporters: "At this moment 100 Baha'is are in prison only for their religion."
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Roche)