Iranians still facing death by stoning despite reprieve

Fifteen could still die in horrific sentence after being allegedly convicted of adultery

Published on The Guardian.co.uk, by Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Ian Black, July 8, 2010.

Twelve Iranian women and three men are on death row awaiting execution by stoning despite an apparent last-minute reprieve for a mother of two who had been facing the horrific sentence after being convicted of adultery.

Human rights groups and activists welcomed a wave of international publicity and protests over the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, who was awaiting execution in the western Iranian town of Tabriz after what her lawyer called an unjust trial and a sham conviction … // 

… Publicity helps. “The only reason the Iranian government has not carried out stoning sentences on all these people is that it is afraid of Iranian public reaction and international attention,” said Sadr.

The embassy said in its statement: “This kind of punishment has rarely been implemented in Iran” and condemned media reports about the case as unreliable.

The 12 women on death row also include Mariam Ghorbanzadeh, 25, Iran Iskandari, 31, Kheyrieh Valania, 42, Sarimeh Sajadi, 30, Kobra Babaei, and Afsaneh R.

Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted of having “illicit relationships” with two men. But her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, insisted there was no evidence to justify an adultery conviction. As a member of Iran’s Azerbaijani minority, her inability to understand the language of the court also prevented a fair trial, he said.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, added his voice to the outrage today, condemning a “medieval punishment that has no place in the modern world”. He added: “The continued use of such a punishment in Iran demonstrates a blatant disregard for international human rights commitments … as well as the interests of its people. I call on Iran to put an immediate stay to the execution of Ms Mohammadi Ashtiani on the charge of adultery and review the process by which she was tried, and her sentence.

“She has already faced the disgraceful punishment of 99 lashes for adultery; her execution would disgust and appal the watching world.”

Actors Emma Thompson, Colin Firth and Juliette Binoche have backed the appeal to halt the stoning and playwright Sir David Hare. John Bercow, the Commons speaker, made a rare statement condemning a “horrific” matter and a “grotesque abuse” of human rights.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party, requires states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to restrict its use to the “most serious crimes”. The United Nations general assembly has called on all states to introduce a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. (full text).

Links:

Stoning in Iran: Brutality pure and simple, July 9, 2010.

Iran halts woman’s death by stoning
, July 8, 2010;

Former elite officers reveal tensions in Iran regime, June 11, 2010;

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards point to fresh dissent within oppressive regime, June 11, 2010.

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