Iran Retracts Stoning Sentence



By: BEV SPRITZER  
Published: July 12th 2010
in News » World

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

In May of 2006, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, was convicted of engaging in “illicit relationships” with two men after the death of her husband. The court in Tabriz, Iran where she was tried promptly sentenced her to five years in prison and 99 lashings.

 

Ashtiani was later found guilty of adultery by an overriding court, and consequently sentenced to death by stoning.

 

It has now been revealed, however, that Ashtiani was originally convicted of murder, having been accused of killing her husband, with the adultery charges added later on. This further complicates an already convoluted case, as this new information has been withheld until this past Sunday.

 

Initially, the news of her impending stoning drew international outrage and criticism, and late Thursday, British media announced that the Iranian court would be retracting her sentence.

 

The Iranian Embassy in London announced the 43-year-old woman would no longer face death by stoning, according to Channel 4 News and the Guardian newspaper, however it is not yet clear, especially considering the new murder allegations, if Ashtiani faces death by any other means.

 

"According to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, she will not be executed by stoning punishment," the embassy confirmed in a statement.

 

The Iranian regime, however, has made it clear it wishes to silence her son, who has been speaking to Western media outlets and human rights groups to garner awareness for his mother’s situation, and the brutality of the stoning sentence.

 

Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of the judiciary in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, told the state news agency IRNA: "Although the verdict is definitive and applicable, it has been halted due to humanitarian reservations and on the order of the judiciary chief and will not be carried out for the moment."

 

But he added that if the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, "deems it expedient, the verdict will be carried out regardless of Western media propaganda.”

 

Mohammed Javad Larijani, brother of judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani and parliament speaker Ali Larijani, heads Iran's top human rights body, and has confirmed that the Iranian judiciary is currently "revising" Ashtiani’s contentious sentencing.

 

According to Ashiani’s supporters, her sentence was suspended only as a result of international pressure, warning that she is still in prison, still on death row, “and could yet be executed by other means. We need to keep campaigning."

 

But fear for Ashiani’s son, Sajad Ghaderzade, 22, is mounting.

 

Mina Ahadi, an Iranian exile who heads the International Committee Against Executions (ICAE), told The Times she had tried to call Ghaderzade on several occasions, but that her calls were blocked and she was called back by men who shouted profanities in Farsi. "Sajad is probably in trouble," she said.

 

Ahadi told The Times that the regime's agents had also harassed her family, who live near the Iranian city of Zanjan, since she started covering Ashtiani's case.

 

The archaic form of punishment known as stoning involves digging a hole in the ground, in which the individual is buried (a woman is buried to her neck, while a man is buried only to his waist). Stones are then pelted at the individual until they die.

 

In 2008, Iranian state media reported that Iran had eliminated death by stoning. The last known stoning was carried out during that year, although the government rarely confirms that such forms of punishment have been dealt.



Related articles: (Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, stoning, Iran, Ayatollah)




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