Iran backs down on woman's stoning for adultery

Not yet clear whether she will be executed by other means
Last Updated 09 July 2010, 16:23 IST

The Iranian embassy in London said in a statement reported by The Times that Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani would no longer be stoned to death, a practice condemned by Western governments as “medieval” and tantamount to torture.

The embassy said that “according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, (Mohammadi Ashtiani) will not be executed by stoning.”

Her lawyer in Iran, however, said he had yet to receive any confirmation of the news, and bemoaned the vagueness of the statement which did not say whether she might be killed by other means.

“I have yet to be told of any stay in implementation of the sentence,” Mohammad Mostafavi said. “My client remains in prison.”

The embassy did not elaborate on whether her conviction had been quashed or the sentence had been commuted to an alternative form of capital punishment — in Iran normally hanging from a crane inside prison walls.

“It didn’t say the verdict had been overturned, so is she going to face some alternative punishment, is she going to be released or will there be a retrial?” Mostafavi said.
International outrage

Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43, was convicted in 2006 or 2007 and has already received 99 lashes, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said. Amnesty International UK warned on July 1 that her execution may be “imminent”.

In the past week, the European Union, Britain, France and the United States have urged the Iranian authorities to stay the execution.

An open letter condemning the execution has also been signed by figures such as former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, three ex-British foreign ministers, Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta and actor Robert De Niro.

Drewery Dyke, researcher on the Middle East at Amnesty International, said the Iranian embassy’s statement “raises more questions than it answers”.

(Published 09 July 2010, 16:23 IST)

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