Stoning sentence suspended

Accused confused over reported punishment

By Jenn Hughes

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman convicted of murder and adultery, showed surprise over false reports that she had received 99 lashes last August.

According to The Gazette, Ashtiani denied ever getting the 99 lashes, which she was reported as having received after The Times of London published a photograph of what appeared to be her without her headscarf. One of her lawyers had told BBC News that Ashtiani was sentenced to the lashes for “indecency.” This photograph later turned out to be of a different woman and there was never any plan for the brutal punishment at that time.

Ashtiani’s former lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, who had been accused of spreading these false reports has left the country, but Vahid Kazemzadeh, a member of the judiciary’s Islamic Human Rights Commission, told The Gazette that Ashtiani had filed a complaint against the lawyer.

Kazemzadeh quoted Ashtiani as saying, “The whole world is aware of my situation because of Mostafaie’s rogue action. I am ready to be present in front of the media and on television any time to defend myself.”

The 43-year old mother of two was charged and found guilty of adultery in 2006. She was then given 99 lashes for having illicit sex with two men after her the death of her husband. Later that year, during the trial of the man charged with murdering her husband, another court reopened an adultery case based on events that allegedly happened before her husband’s death. Ashtiani was also charged with involvement in her husband’s murder in 2005.

“I was found guilty of adultery and was acquitted of murder, but the man who actually killed my husband was identified and imprisoned but he is not sentenced to death,” Ashtiani said to The Guardian in an interview through an intermediary on Aug. 7.

Ashtiani was sentenced to be stoned as punishment for her second offense of adultery, but the sentence was suspended in July due to international outcry. Ashtiani instead has been imprisoned in Tabriz since the initial ruling in 2006 and still faces death by hanging or life in prison.

According to The New York Times, a statement about the verdict being reviewed and suspended by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast came out a day after European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso called the stoning sentence “barbaric beyond words.”

“It’s because I’m a woman, it’s because they think they can do anything to women in this country… An adulterous man might not even be imprisoned but an adulterous woman is the end of the world for them. It’s because I’m in a country where its women do not have the right to divorce their husbands and are deprived of their basic rights,” Ashtiani said.

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