Woman's stoning suspended after global outcry

Iran accuses West of propaganda

“The verdict regarding the extramarital affairs has stopped and it’s being reviewed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iran’s state-run English-language Press TV.

The statement came a day after European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani “barbaric beyond words,” the latest in a string of criticisms by foreign powers.

She was convicted of adultery — a capital crime in the Islamic Republic — in 2006. She also has been charged with involvement in her husband’s murder. In a live telephone interview, Mehmanparast said the murder charge was “being investigated for the final verdict to be issued.”

Adultery is the only crime which carries the penalty of death by stoning under the sharia law which Iran adopted after the 1979 Islamic revolution, a lawyer said.

The death penalty for murder in Iran is by hanging. The lawyer said Ashtiani might receive 15 years’ jail if convicted of being an accomplice to murder.

At no point in the interview, which was in the Farsi language but was dubbed over by a simultaneous translation into English, did Mehmanparast mention “stoning”, referring merely to Ashtiani’s “death sentence”.

“We think that this is a very normal case,” he said. "This dossier looks likes many other dossiers that exist in other countries.”

Human rights campaigners, intellectuals and politicians in Europe, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his singer wife Carla Bruni, have taken up Ashtiani’s cause.

US blamed

Mehmanparast blamed the United States for stirring the furore to hurt Iran’s international image as it faces sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear program.

“It looks like they are playing a political game,” he said.

“This lady’s case that is being followed... is in direct connection and relation with the soft war that is being waged against Iran.”

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