Iran continues to be challenged on stoning case

By staff writers
August 6, 2010

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman in Iran condemned to death for adultery, is at imminent risk of execution in Tabriz prison, say campaigners as they step up pressure on the government.

Ashtiani’s human rights lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, is now in prison in Turkey having fled the country and claimed asylum to evade arrest for his advocacy work. The International Committee Against Stoning reports that his wife remains in prison in Iran - held hostage - until he is remanded into the regime’s custody.

Given Turkey’s close relations with Iran, Mostafaei may face deportation, even though he has applied for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees there.

Campaigners are concerned about the safety of Mostafaei and his wife. They are also extremely concerned for Ashtiani’s life. It is believed that the Iranian government may be preparing to execute her within the next few days, particularly given that the Tabriz prosecutor has demanded her execution and is now awaiting the Tehran high court’s confirmation.

In her heart-rending recent message, Ashtiani said: “I am now quiet and sad because a part of my heart is frozen. The day I was flogged in front of [my son] Sajjad, I was crushed and my dignity and heart were broken. The day I was given the stoning sentence, it was as if I fell into a deep hole and I lost consciousness.”

She continued: “Many nights, before sleeping, I think to myself how can anybody be prepared to throw stones at me; to aim at my face and hands? Why? I thank all of you from Tabriz Prison. Mrs [Mina] Ahadi, tell everyone that I’m afraid of dying. Help me stay alive and hug my children.”

As a result the public outcry, Brazilian president Lula da Silva offered Ashtiani asylum there. The offer was accepted but the Iranian government has rejected it and continues to push for her execution and to disseminate what her supporters says is misinformation about her case.

The authorities say they intend not to stone her but to execute her for murdering her husband. However, at the 30 July press conference in London, Mina Ahadi revealed court documents showing Ashtiani’s sentence of death by stoning for adultery.

Indeed, she was acquitted of any murder charges, and those found guilty of murdering her husband have not been executed at the request of the victim’s family.

At the conference, Maryam Namazie of Iran Solidarity refuted claims made by the Iranian embassy in London and the former French ambassador to Iran, that stonings in the country were rare. She cited a new report published by the International Committee against Executions which has found that over 100 people have been stoned with 25 known cases currently awaiting death by stoning in Iran.



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