Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Sa'id Hana'i


Age: 40
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam (Shi'a)
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: April 16, 2002
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Vakilabad Prison), Mashhad, Khorasan\Khorasan-e Razavi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Murder
Age at time of alleged offense: 39

About this Case

Mr. Hana’i was a 39-year-old mason, married with three children, carried a Bassij membership card, and served on the front lines of the Iran-Iraq war

News of Mr. Sa’id Hana’i’s execution on April 17, 2002, was published in Jam-e Jam newspaper (April 17, 2002). Additional information about this case was obtained from numerous reports in Iran Newspaper (July 28, 29, and 31, 2001 August 1, 2001, September 16, 2001, October 13, 17, and 25, 2001), ISNA (September 22, and October 12, 2001), and the documentary film “And the Spider Came,” containing interviews with the defendant, the defendant’s family, the victims’ families, and Mr. Hana’i’s relatives.

Mr. Sa’id Hana’i, child of Ali Asghar, was 39 years old and resided in the city of Mashhad. He had a fifth grade education, was married, and had three children: one boy and two girls. Mr. Hana’i had served on the front in the Iran-Iraq war. He was a mason (building contractor) and, according to his wife, had a religious disposition. Mr. Hana’i had previously undergone treatment for mental and psychological issues (Iran Newspaper, July 29, 2001).

Mr. Hana’i’s case is related the discovery of the bodies of 16 women aged 18 to 55 years old between July 2000 and July 2001 in Mashhad, who had been murdered in the same fashion. The case came to be known as the “spider murders.” According to media reports, the victims had “criminal records related to drugs, vagrancy, and moral turpitude.” It took an entire year to arrest the defendant in this case. The case had attracted much media attention, and as time went by, the number of victims kept rising. The then-commander of the Police Force, Mr. Qalibaf, attributed the delay in identifying the murderer and preventing further murders to the fact that the victims had been banished and disowned by their families and their families had therefore not alerted and complained to the police. Upon Hana’i’s arrest, the Khorassan Province Bassij Organization brought a complaint against him for forging a Bassij membership card.

Arrest and detention

Based on available information, one of the victims had been able to run away from her attacker and provided his personal information and address to the police. Thus, one year after the first murder, Mr. Hana’i was identified and arrested. He was interrogated by Criminal Investigations officers. No information is available on the manner of his interrogation. Mr. Haha’i was taken to Mashhad Prison at the close of the interrogations.


Mr. Sa’id Hana’i’s trial took place at the Mashhad General Court Branch 53, in four sessions (three of which were public, and one closed) on September 22, and on October 10, 11, and 16, 2000.

The first trial session was convened at the Mashhad Judiciary Meeting Hall, with the next of kin, the defendant, and his attorney in attendance. The Prosecutor’s representative proceeded to read the indictment against the defendant, pointing to the negative effects of such murders on society’s fundamental social and cultural structure, stating that they create insecurity, agitated minds, and fostered instability across the board. He asked for the harshest possible sentence for the defendant, and asked for a closed-door trial session in order to address charges of adultery. Given that Mr. Hana’i had claimed that “the victims deserved to be killed,” the Prosecutor’s representative stated that the victims’ petty criminal records were not grounds to pronounce them “mahdur ul-dam” (literally meaning “one who has forfeited one’s blood”; this is a person whose blood, according to religious law, can be shed without penalty or punishment for the murderer) and asked that the defendant be sentenced and punished expeditiously. The victims’ families then proceeded to bring their complaints (ISNA, September 22, 2000).

Mr. Hana’i’s second trial session which was due to take place on September 29, 2000, was postponed due to his lawyer’s resignation, and was convened on October 10, 2000, upon designation of a court-appointed lawyer. Mr. Hana’i proceeded to describe the murders in detail in this session. In bringing Khorassan Province Bassij Organization’s complaint, its legal representative stated: “A Bassiji is the protector of order in society, he is not the cause of disorder in society… Can this corrupt being be an appropriate model for society and the people?” (ISNA, October 10, 2000). In the third session which took place on October 11, 2000, the judge cited the Medical Examiner’s report which had declared the defendant of sound mind. The Prosecutor’s representative had asked the court to sentence the defendant to the harshest possible punishment on that basis. Mr. Hana’i’s court-appointed lawyer was present at the session (Iran newspaper, October 13, 2000). Based on available information, Mr. Hana’i’s last trial session, convened on October 16, 2000, was a closed-door session (Iran newspaper, October 17, 2000).


The court charged Mr. Sa’id Hana’i with “16 counts of intentional murder, 13 counts of adultery, theft, forgery, and use of forged document (Bassij card).” He was accused of having picked up sixteen women as prostitutes on the streets of Mashhad between July 29, 2000, and July 23, 2001; after giving them a ride on his motorcycle, he had lured them to his home, and, after engaging in illegal sexual relations with them, he had strangled them with their own head scarves and murdered them. He had then robbed them, rolled their bodies in their chadors, and left them on the outskirts of town, on Khin Arab road in particular.

Sa’id Hana’i was charged with “16 counts of intentional murder, 13 counts of adultery, theft, forgery, and use of a forged document.” 

Evidence of guilt

Mr. Hana’i confessed to 16 counts of intentional murder in court, and proceeded to provide details of each of the murders. He described his motive for the killings as wanting to “get rid of social corruption.” Judicial and law enforcement officials declared that police investigations proved that the murders were committed by Mr. Hana’i.

According to available reports, the Prosecutor’s representative cited the evidence for the crimes as being the Defendant’s express, clear, and repeated admissions; re-construction of the murder scenes by the Defendant and the conformity thereof with existing evidence; discovery of the bodies of murder victims; the statements of the sole victim who had been able to run away from him; and the Medical Examiner’s findings. Based on available information, the Medical Examiner’s representative stated in court that the Defendant was mentally fit and that there were no indications of insanity at the time of the commission of the murders, and that all the evidence confirmed his mental and psychological health, and that he was of sound mind. He further stated: “The Defendant himself has stated that he was in charge of the Parents and Teachers Association at his child’s school and that he had made constructive proposals at the Association.”


At trial, Mr. Hana’i said in his own defense: “I’m [affected by] temporary insanity and I think I have killed 16 cockroaches. Even if [I am executed through] Qesas, I do not regret what I have done.” Denying the charges of “13 counts of adultery, robbery, and misuse of a forged document (the Bssij membership card),” he stated: “Every time I saw a [prostitute] on the street, I became momentarily insane, and my eyes would bulge out of their sockets. I would only regain my calm after I killed a prostitute” (Iran newspaper, October 13, 2001). According to the Medical Examiner’s report, Hana’i did not have sexual relations with the victims prior to murdering them (Iran newspaper, July 28, 2001).

Objecting to the fact that the physicians who had examined his client were not present in court [to provide testimony], Mr. Hana’i’s defense attorney stated with regard to his client’s lack of mental stability: “Mr. Hana’i was hospitalized twice in 1980-81 and in 1982-83, for psychological issues, and he escaped from the hospital both times.” Stating that the Bassij representative’s statements were outside the framework [of the case], he said that [the representative’s] statements had nothing to do with the charge of “forgery of a seal” and had no legal validity. He emphasized that the court must treat his client as an “accused” person, not a “murderer” (ISNA, October 10, 2001).

During interrogation, Mr. Hana’i stated that the idea of murdering women that he considered “prostitutes” had come to him after his own wife had been harassed by a driver. According to available information, he stated: “During that time, when I saw loose women and prostitutes getting into cars, I began to think that it was these types of women who were the main reason why a driver would mistake my wife [for a prostitute.] As I was fundamentally opposed to these women, and the fact that the neighborhood where I resided was not livable due to the comings and goings of these street women and my wife and children had no security, I decided to confront the prostitute situation” (September 16, 2001).

Prior to the implementation of his death sentence, however, Mr. Hana’i stated: “I was sick and suffered from mental issues; what I did was not willful; I was taking pills even then. I hope no one else repeats the crimes that I committed. At first, I thought what I was doing was right and that people would support me; but after several murders, I realized what a mistake I had made” (Jam-e Jam, April 17, 2002).


In the fall of 2001, Mashhad General Court Branch 53 sentenced Mr. Sa’id Hana’i to 12 death sentences (Qesas of life), payment of Diah to the families of four of the victims, 14 years imprisonment, 173 lashes for illegal relations, return of stolen property, and 4 years imprisonment for forging a document and his position [as a member of the Basij] (Jam-e Jam, April 17, 2002). Supreme Court Branch 31 upheld the sentence in January 2002. According to one published report, the court decision was based on a finding of Efsad fel-Arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”) (Iran, October 25, 2001).

Mr. Hana’i’s sentence of 173 lashes was carried out before he was executed

According to the sentence implementation judge’s statement, the Judiciary was of the view that the sentence should be carried out in public, but because the next of kin wished the punishment to be implemented in private, a public execution was dispensed with. Based on available information, Mr. Hana’i’s assets were not sufficient for the payment of Diah to the families of four of the victims; it was therefore ordered that his assets be proportionately divided among the four families. Mr. Hana’i’s sentence of 173 lashes was also carried out. On April 16, 2002, Mr. Sa’id Hana’i was hanged in Mashhad Prison in the presence of the next of kin and the authorities in charge.

Correct/ Complete This Entry