News / Middle East

    Iranian Plans to Execute Woman for Adultery Unclear

    An Iranian demonstrator holds a picture of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani as she protests in front of the EU Council in Brussels. About 50 protestors asked for action from the EU to save Ashtiani from being stoned to death in Iran, 3 Nov 2010.
    An Iranian demonstrator holds a picture of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani as she protests in front of the EU Council in Brussels. About 50 protestors asked for action from the EU to save Ashtiani from being stoned to death in Iran, 3 Nov 2010.

    Recent reports have warned that Iran was preparing to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to be stoned for adultery.  But her lawyer tells VOA he believes the information is incorrect. And French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also says he has received assurances that there are no immediate plans to execute the woman. 

    Recently the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was sentenced by the Iranian judiciary to be stoned to death for adultery, has again made headlines in the West, with reports saying she would soon be executed.

    Human-rights groups and ordinary citizens who sympathize with her plight protested her case in many Western cities, earlier this year.

    Ashtiani's son and daughter attracted the attention of Western news organizations to their mother's sentence, complaining it was unjust and urging Iran to review it. Then Brazilian President Ignacio Lula da Silva even offered Ashtiani asylum in his country if Iran would accept.

    Last July, Iranian TV tried to justify the sentence, interviewing Ashtiani, who claimed to be guilty.  In the interview she even begged Iranian authorities to hang her.  Both her family and her former attorney Mohammed Mostafaei insisted that she had "confessed" under "extreme duress." 

    Attorney Mohammed Mostafaei, who lives in exile in Norway, tells VOA he contacted a number of Iranian judiciary officials recently and was told a report that Sakineh Ashtiani would be hanged soon was not correct.

    "This news was wrong.  I called my friends in Iran ...  I have some friends in the Iranian judiciary in Tabriz and I talked about this news and they said the news is not true and they informed me that there is not any hanging execution in Sakineh's case.  There is only a stoning punishment," Mostafaei said.

    In addition to the woman's lawyer, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says he received assurances from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki that no final verdict has been reached in the woman's case.

    Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says the Iranian judiciary had "stepped up its executions" at Mashhad's Vakilabad prison, but he has been "unable to confirm" reports Ashtiani was about to be hanged.  He said at least 23 prisoners were reportedly hanged in recent days, without any announcement by Iranian judicial authorities.

    Ghaemi says Iran has "doubled the number of executions it normally conducts" in recent months and is now second only to China in its per-capita execution rate.

    The head of Iran's official human-rights organization, Mohammed Larijani, recently insisted Tehran is being "unfairly targeted" for its human-rights abuses.  He claimed, "Abuses in Iranian prisons are only isolated cases."

    Families of Iranian political prisoners, as well as former political prisoners, have repeatedly complained to VOA about the appalling conditions in many Iranian prisons, including Tehran's Evin Prison and Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj.  A facility at Kahrizak was ordered closed after several young detainees were reportedly tortured to death in 2009.

    One Iranian political prisoner who wrote an open letter, earlier this year, describing his conditions of detention at the overcrowded Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, described life there as a "hell and human catastrophe."

    He wrote of "naked and sweaty bodies, red with lice bites," living amid "dirty, polluted air, the smell of rotten trash, sewage from clogged toilets, dried vomit from food poisoning, and mucus from infected throats."

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