Iran says no final decision on woman who could be executed by stoning on adultery conviction

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Iran says no decision on woman in stoning case

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran said Tuesday no final decision has been made on the fate of a woman who could be executed by stoning on an adultery conviction in a case that has sparked widespread international outrage.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said “the judiciary process has not been completed” and that once it has, a verdict will be announced.

The outcry from world leaders and human rights activists opposed to the brutality of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s sentence has riled Iranian officials already deeply at odds with the West over the country’s nuclear program.

Iran has tried to shift attention away from the stoning sentence, which it says has been put on hold. Instead, officials began in August to talk about a separate case in which they say Ashtiani was convicted of being an accomplice in her husband’s 2005 murder, which could result in her being hanged.

Her lawyer, however, says her case file has never included such a charge and that stoning remains a possibility.

Human Rights Watch says the 43-year-old mother of two from a remote corner of Iran was initially convicted in May 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” and sentenced to 99 lashes. Later that year, she was convicted of the more serious charge of adultery and sentenced to be stoned, even though she retracted a confession she says was made under duress.

“For the time being, the issue of the murder is on the agenda, and her participation in it is clear,” Mehmanparast said.

On Monday, state prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei explained the shift by saying that, under Iranian law, a charge of being an accomplice to murder takes priority.

Neither Ejehei nor the ministry spokesman mentioned the word stoning in their remarks.

Responding to criticism of the case, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week accused Western media of having a double standard because not as much as attention has been given to the case of an American woman facing the death penalty in the state of Virginia on a conviction of playing a role in the murder of her husband and stepson.

Stoning was widely imposed in Iran in the years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran’s judiciary still regularly hands down such sentences, but they are often converted to other punishments.

The last known stoning was carried out in 2007, although the government rarely confirms that such punishments have been meted out.

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