Zahra Esmaili was sentenced to execution after she ‘finally snapped’ and shot dead her abusive husband in July 2017.

On the day of her hanging, she died from a heart attack while watching 16 people being publicly put to death while she awaited the same fate.

But it was decided her corpse should be hanged and her mother-in-law allowed to kick a stool from beneath her feet. Officials denied the account, but her lawyer said the cause of death was cardiac arrest rather than hanging.

Esmaili’s daughter was jailed for five years and her son was also arrested as a co-conspirator.

Both claim to have been sleeping at the time and the son helped the mother-in-law kick the stool. It is thought Zahra’s case was made public to increase public terror over the prospect of being publicly executed for offences.

A UN human rights expert in October told the BBC almost every execution in Iran was an ‘arbitrary deprivation of life’.Under Iran’s laws, citizens can be executed for crimes not deemed to be among the ‘most serious’ under international law, including drug trafficking.

Activists have pleaded with the West to tackle Iran’s death penalty record and human rights violations as part of negotiations over the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

‘The Iranian authorities insisted that human rights not be a part of the nuclear negotiations from day one; it is beyond hypocrisy for them to now insist that human rights sanctions should be lifted in order to resume the Iran nuclear deal.’

It follows Iran’s foreign ministry saying Sir Salman Rushdie and his supporters ‘are to blame for what happened to him’ after the 75-year-old Satanic Verses writer was repeatedly knifed in the body and liver in New York, leaving him likely to lose one eye with nerves in his arm also severed.