Iran Reconsiders Stoning Mother of Two
Iran will reconsider the sentence of death by stoning handed down to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a mother of two accused of adultery. Ashtiani, a widow, denies the charges against her.
Malek Ajdar Sharifi, head of the judiciary in East Azerbaijan province, told the state IRNA news agency that the verdict against Ashtiani remains “definitive and applicable.” However, he said, “the verdict has been halted due to humanitarian reservations... and will not be carried out for the time being.”
Sharifi claimed that Ashtiani, 43, had committed “heinous” crimes. “If we give the details of the crimes she committed, the public will understand the depth of her inhuman and criminal nature,” he said. “But due to humanitarian considerations we can't give the details.”
Ashianti is accused of being complicit in her husband's death, because she was at home, where the murder took place, at the time he was killed. However, the two sons born to her and to her slain husband are firmly on their mother's side, and say she was coerced into a false confession. They have led an international campaign to overturn her sentence.
The plan to execute Ashtiani by stoning earned international condemnation. The United States, the European Union, international human rights groups, and Britain all called on Iran to cancel the execution. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the sentence “medieval,” and said it would “disgust and appall” the world if carried out. Individual public figures, including former politicians, actors, and a Nobel peace laureate, called for a stay of execution as well.
Though Iranian officials said the stay had nothing to do with the widespread Western pressure, this appears not to be the case. As recently as this past Friday, Mohammed Javad Larijani of Iran's human rights council told IRNA that the “hue and cry that the West has launched over this case will not affect our judges," he said. "The implementation of Islamic regulations like stoning and the headscarf have always been faced with their impudently hostility and opposition."
In Iran, women sentenced to death by stoning are buried up to their shoulders and then killed by a barrage of fist-sized rocks. Human rights groups have expressed concern that while Ashianti has currently been spared this form of execution, she may be killed in a different way, such as hanging.