Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's sentence to death by stoning for adultery compared to Virginia's plans to execute Teresa Lewis
Iran accuses US of double standards over woman's execution
Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Monday 20 September 2010
Iran accused the US of human rights violations today over plans by the state of Virginia to execute a woman for the first time in nearly 100 years, despite claims that she has severe learning difficulties.
Iran's state-sponsored media has devoted considerable coverage to reports about Teresa Lewis, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday for arranging the murder of her husband and stepson in 2002.
The parliamentary human rights committee said her case reflected "the double standards" of the American government, comparing her case to that of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and complicity in her husband's murder.
"We will file an official complaint to the international community against the US if the sentence is administered," Hossein Naghavi, an Iranian MP and the spokesman for the committee, told the semi-official Fars news agency. Several Iranian MPs have expressed concerns over Lewis's execution and have asked the US for her sentence to be commuted.
America was one of the several countries to express outrage over Ashtiani's case, which has embarrassed the Iranian government after receiving considerable international attention. Iran has since suspended the stoning sentence, although Ashtiani is still being held in jail and her family fear for her life.
In Virginia, governor Robert McDonnell refused an appeal for clemency for Lewis, who lawyers say has an IQ of 72. The supreme court has ruled that anyone with an IQ below 70 may not be executed. She has one last chance of appealing to the US supreme court ahead of her scheduled execution. The men who carried out the killings – one of whom was Lewis's lover – received life sentences.
Iranian news agencies highlighted similarities between the cases, reporting that Lewis, like Ashtiani, had been convicted of "having an extramarital relationship". MPs criticised the US for sentencing Lewis to death while sparing the lives of the killers – as happened in Ashtiani's case.
The Fars news agency criticised the US media for "being silent in the past seven years Lewis has been kept in jail". "On her execution day she'll wish for a better country whose judiciary would listen to its people rather than intervening in the internal affairs of other countries," it said.
"It's not been a long time since the American media attacked Iran over the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani … Lewis's case has similarities with Mohammadi Ashtiani's case with the difference that Sakineh has been found guilty for the crime she committed but there are lots of ambiguities in Teresa's case. The US and the American media tried their best to make a symbol of human rights out of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani because of the background of their atrocities towards Iran but after seven years, human rights organisations have been silent for Teresa. This shows their double standard in relation to other counties."
Iranian MPs Zohreh Elahian and Salman Zaker also condemned the US over Lewis's sentence which they say is "contradictory to international standards". They have called for a judicial review.
In an interview with ABC last weekend in New York, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied Ashtiani had ever been given a death sentence by stoning.
Iran may back down from stoning of woman
By BENJAMIN JOFFE-WALT / THE MEDIA LINE
Int'l pressure seen in move to review sentence.
Iran has apparently submitted to intense international pressure, promising to review a judicial sentence calling for the death by stoning of a woman convicted of adultery. The sentence so far has not been commuted.
Sakineh Mohamamadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, was accused of having extramarital relations with two men who ended up killing her husband. After two trials she was sentenced to death by stoning, which if carried out would have been the first known stoning to take place in the Islamic Republic in years.
Dozens of international rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, took up Ashtiani's case after it was first leaked to Radio Farda by women's rights activist Soheila Vahdati last week. The impending stoning was discussed in a number of Western parliaments and condemned by U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.); the European Union's foreign policy chief; the foreign ministers of Canada and Germany; and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. A number of celebrities, including American actress Lindsay Lohan, playwright David Hare, philosopher A.C. Grayling and actors Emma Thompson, Juliette Binoche and Colin Firth all made statements about the case.
Iran announced over the weekend that while Ashtiani's death sentence will stand, the sentence and option for appeal will be reviewed. Officials were quick to deny that the decision was a response to the international outcry.
"Our judicial system cannot change its course because of Western attack and media pressure," Iran High Council for Human Rights chief Mohammad-Javad Larijani told Iran's state news agency IRNA on Friday. "The commotion that the Western media has started in connection with this case will not affect our judges' views. The execution of Islamic religious laws on death by stoning, hijab and inheritance has always faced their audacious animosity and basically any issue which hints of religious law is always opposed by them."
Pashad Husseini, an advocate for the International Committee Against Stoning who is in touch Ashtiani's family and lawyer, declared victory.
"This is a victory of the people of the world, and thanks to the amazing coverage from the international news media," he told The Media Line. "Over 30 years we have had many successful cases with international campaigns to intervene in stoning sentences."
"It's very important to note that they have not definitely canceled the sentence, they have just said that they will review the case," Husseini warned. "There are some examples in the past in which they said they will review the case and then in the end they carry out the stoning sentence. The children are optimistic that their mother's imminent stoning has been cancelled, but they are still concerned about the future."
Mohammad Mostafaie, a famous human rights lawyer in Tehran who took on Ashtiani's case after hearing of the sentence of stoning, said there has been no official change.
"I have heard the reports that Mr. Larijani said that the stoning sentence is being reviewed, but at this time I don't know what is the sentence in this case," he told The Media Line. "On Wednesday I will go to court and inquire about her case. All I can say is that the weather is not good in Iran."
Iranian media has been banned from reporting about Ashtiani's death sentence.
The case began in 2005 when Ashtiani was arrested for having "illicit relationships." She was convicted by a local court a year later and sentenced to 99 lashes and an unknown amount of time in prison, where she has remained since.
Following the original case, however, Ashtiani and her alleged boyfriends were accused of murdering her husband. Ashtiani was convicted and sentenced to death by stoning.
Iranian human rights advocates allege that Ashtiani's adultery case was reopened during her murder trial, despite her having already been punished.
"What's interesting about this case is that this woman had already been sentenced to lashes for adultery," Niusha Boghrati, an Iranian journalist who covers human rights issues told The Media Line. "She appealed to a higher court. They did not decrease her sentence, but on the contrary, took it to the next level, which in the case of adultery is death by stoning."
Ashtiani has denied any wrongdoing, claimed she was never given access to a lawyer and that her confession was made under duress. She has reportedly asked local authorities for a pardon, stating simply "If I have done any wrong, I repent." The request for clemency was denied.
Ashtiani's two children, Fasride and Sajjad, aged 16 and 20, have been leading the campaign for her release.
Infidelity is illegal in Iran, and usually punished with lashes and prison time. However, Article 83 of the Laws of Islamic Punishment in Iran, ratified in 1991, allows for death by stoning in infidelity cases. The code later states that "the stones should not be so large that the person dies upon being hit by one or two of them; neither should they be so small they could not be defined as stones."
Stonings usually take place in public and the victim's family is often required to watch. The judge or witnesses to the alleged crime are asked to throw the first stone, and it can take up to 30 minutes for the victim to die.
International pressure forced Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, head of Iran's judiciary, to impose a moratorium on stoning in 2002, but rights advocates say the stoning sentences are still being carried out.
Three people were stoned to death in 2009 and another three in 2008, according to figures kept by the International Committee Against Stoning. Six people, including Ashtiani, have been sentenced to death by stoning so far this year.
Rights groups claim Iran has one of the world's highest rates of execution. Iran has executed more than 100 people by other means this year alone.
Vatican 'may appeal' to Iran over stoning caseVatican City
Vatican City, Sep 06, 2010
The Vatican has said it could appeal diplomatically to Iran to spare the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The statement followed a plea for help from the son of the woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, in an interview with an Italian news agency.
After an international outcry, Iranian officials temporarily halted Ms Ashtiani's stoning sentence in July. However, campaigners fear Ms Ashtiani could still be hanged. Italian Foreign Minister Franco FrattiniFranco Frattini appealed to Tehran to consider "an act of clemency".
The Vatican said it was "following this affair with attention and commitment," spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement."The Church's position against the death penalty is well known and stoning is a particularly brutal form of it," he said. Fr Lombardi said the Vatican could use diplomatic channels to try to save Ms Ashtiani, but he told Associated Press news agency that no formal request to intervene had been made.
In an interview with the Italian news agency Adnkronos, Ms Ashtiani's son Sajad Ghaderzadeh appealed to Pope Benedict XVIPope Benedict XVI and the Italian government to help save his mother's life.
On Saturday 4th Sep, 2010, Mr Ghaderzadeh said an Iranian judge had sentenced his mother to 99 lashes for "spreading corruption and indecency" over a photograph published in a British newspaper purportedly showing her without a head covering.
In May 2006, a criminal court in East Azerbaijan province found Ms Ashtiani guilty of having had an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband. She was given 99 lashes. But that September, during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, another court reopened an adultery case based on events that allegedly took place before her husband died.
Despite retracting a confession she said she had been forced to make under duress, Ms Ashtiani was convicted of "adultery while being married" and sentenced to death by stoning.
In August, Iranian TV aired what it said was a confession from Ms Ashtiani of her involvement in her husband's 2005 murder.
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