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Iran's Judiciary Halts Stoning of Woman for Now

A judicial official in Iran says a woman's sentence of death by stoning is not being carried out "for the time being."

Iran's state-run news agency attributes the statement to the head of the Justice Department in East Azerbaijan province, Malek Azhdar Sharifi. He told the news agency that while the guilty verdict is definitive, its application has been halted by Iran's judiciary chief due to humane considerations.

However, the provincial official said the death sentence will be carried out whenever the judiciary chief deems it expedient, regardless of what he termed Western media propaganda.

Many Western nations and human rights activists have urged Iran not to stone the woman to death.

Human rights groups say 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006 and has already received a punishment of 99 lashes.

Iranian judicial official Sharifi said Sunday that the woman's crimes were "various and serious" and not limited to adultery.

Last Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said stoning is a form of execution that is tantamount to torture, calling it a "barbaric and abhorrent act."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Iran's continued use of the practice shows a "blatant disregard for human rights."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP.