04 November 2010
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for allegedly having committed adultery, escaped her execution on Wednesday after strong international protests, but still faces the death penalty. Ashtiani, whose case has captivated the world, might be hanged instead of stoned to death, human rights advocates said. The 43-year-old mother, was sentenced under Islamic Sharia law for having had an "illicit relationship" with other men, although it was alleged to have occurred after the death of her husband. She was condemned to whipping of 99 lashes, which was carried out in the presence of her son in 2007. Sakineh was retried for the same alleged crime of adultery, convicted of having committed adultery while still married, and sentenced to death by stoning.
"The general feeling is that if we do not manage to get Sakineh released, the regime is probably going to execute her by hanging," Maria Rohaly of the International Committee Against Stoning said. She credited the sentencing's deferment to public pressure by politicians, human rights groups and international media. The European Parliament and European Union demanded Iran stop the execution. Dilma Rousseff, who was elected president of Brazil on Sunday, told a press conference in Brasilia: "I find the stoning of Sakineh a very barbarous act." Maureen Harper, wife of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, called Ashtiani's case "an affront to any sense of moral or human decency". On Thursday, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden issued a joint appeal to Iran, calling on Tehran to commute the sentence against Ashtiani.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that he had been told by his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki, on Wednesday that the final verdict in the Sakineh Ashtiani case had not been announced by the Iranian judiciary. Mottaki's spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the West was using the issue to beat Iran which it was already pressuring over its nuclear program. "They have become so shameless as to turn the case of Sakineh Mohammadi, who has committed both crime and betrayal, into a human rights case against our nation," he was quoted as saying by the students news agency ISNA.
Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of the justice department in East Azarbaijan province, where Sakineh Ashtiani is imprisoned, insisted that her case was still under review and she was in "perfect health". He accused the Western media of "poisoning the atmosphere against the Islamic Republic of Iran".
Mohammed Mostafaei, Ashtiani's lawyer until he was forced to flee Iran in late July, said that Iranian judicial sources had assured him that her execution was not imminent. The woman’s son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, and her lawyer in Tabriz, Javid Houtan Kian, have been imprisoned by Iran for publicizing Ashtiani's case abroad.
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