The Iranian woman’s whose sentence of death by stoning for alleged adultery triggered a worldwide outcry will apparently instead be hanged to death, accused of complicity in the murder of her husband.
This is shocking, and beyond tragic. I deeply respect Islamic law, but this decision appears to be purely a political reaction to the furor that the initial sentence caused.
When I began this blog, I created my alter ego, “The Curator,” who would lead readers through the amazing and varied world of sexual behavior and beliefs without judgment, with as much neutrality as possible.
Not this time.
I had done this because I felt there were too many loud opinions about anything and everything and not enough information conveyed in markedly egocentric blogs. I wanted readers to decide how they felt, working hard to make The Curator as unobtrusive as possible, even invisible rather than a part of the process.
Not this time.
Here are the facts: The attorney general of Iran announced yesterday that Sakineh Ashtiani Mohamadi has been sentenced to death for the second crime of complicity to murder and will die by hanging.
It is important to note that in earlier governmental statements, the woman had supposedly been pardoned on the murder charge, but convicted of simple adultery.
According to a report released yesterday by Iranian Mehr News Agency, the Prosecutor General of Iran, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i said. "According to the court's decision she has been found guilty of murder and the penalty for this crime takes precedence over the previous charge of adultery."
The court's decision prevents the woman from being stoned to death, but not from dying, since murder in Iran is punishable by hanging.
"The question should not be politicized. The Iranian judiciary system cannot be influenced by the propaganda campaign waged in the West," Mohseni-Eje'i added.
Several months ago the accused, Mohamadi, 43, had been convicted of adultery and sentenced to execution by stoning. The sentence sparked a wave of international criticism and protests, forcing the Iran regime to suspend the sentence and state that it would be reviewed.
Reports have indicated that a woman identified as Ashtiani, confessed on Iranian State TV a few days ago of having had a relationship with a man outside marriage and having participated in the death of her husband.
The Iranian regime also accused last week Ashtiani’s lawyer of having used the trial, which triggered worldwide interest, for his own benefit by applying for political asylum in Norway, where he is now with his family.
"The lawyer tried to politicize the case when he said that his life was in danger because he was defending a woman, but his arguments only go after his personal interests," said Ramin Mehmanparast, Iranian Minister of Foreign Relations, is his weekly press conference.
Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated that in Iran there is no death sentence, but then compared Ashtiani’s case with that of Teresa Lewis, the woman who was executed last Thursday in Virginia, United States, for a similar offense.
Iran, the United States, China and Saudi Arabia are the countries where most capital punishments are applied.
Here is more information on the case from the original, earlier governmental and media accounts:
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was convicted on May 15, 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men, according to Amnesty International and her lawyer.
She has now been sentenced to death by stoning.
Her lawyer, Mohommad Mostafaei, said Mohammadi-Ashtiani confessed to the crime after being subjected to 99 lashes. She later recanted that confession and has denied wrongdoing, he said.
Her conviction was based not on evidence but on the determination of three out of five judges, he added. She has asked forgiveness from the court but the judges refused to grant clemency. Iran's supreme court upheld the death conviction in 2007.
Apparently, Iran was reviewing that sentence of stoning, a rights official said, but her lawyer warned that there was no guarantee the execution would be halted.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran's top human rights official, said that the verdict of death by stoning against Mohammadi-Ashtiani is being reviewed by the judiciary.
"She was sentenced to 90 lashes by one court and stoning by another. The verdict is under revision," Larijani was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
He said the chief of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, was of the opinion that it was preferable to use another penalty instead of stoning, "and that is true for Ms. Mohammadi-Ashtiani."
Larijani did not say what penalty she could face instead, but added: "The penalty of stoning exists under the law but the judges rarely use it."
Mostafai told news agencies that he had yet to receive any official confirmation that the stoning sentence had been revised.
"There is no guarantee that it will be halted," he said.
"Sentences such as stoning will be closely reviewed and probably changed," Larijani told Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency.
In London protesters waved flags and chanted anti-government slogans to the beat of a drum in front of the Iranian Embassy. They condemned executions in Iran – by stoning and hanging.
But Larijani said protests from outside Iran will not affect Ashtiani's case.
"The Western attacks have no effect on the opinion of our judges," he told the news agency.
Larijani's comments seemed to contradict Iran's public statements made from its embassy in London that strongly suggested Mohammadi-Ashtiani would not be stoned.
The public statement said, "this mission denies the false news aired in this respect and...according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, she will not be executed by stoning punishment.
"It is notable that this kind of punishment has rarely been implemented in Iran and various means and remedies must be probed and exhausted to finally come up with such a punishment," the embassy statement concluded.
Mohammadi-Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Mohammedie Ashtiani, who appealed to Iran's courts to spare his mother's life and also appealed to the world for help via Twitter, said he won't accept any decision short of his mother's freedom.
Through human rights activist Mina Ahadi, the son said he would be satisfied only when Iran's judiciary officially drops the charges against her.
Ahadi has said that only an international campaign designed to pressure the Islamic regime in Tehran could save Mohammadi-Ashtiani's life.
"Legally, it's all over," said Ahadi, who heads the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, earlier this week.
Mohammadi-Ashtiani's son wrote in an open letter to government officials that there was neither evidence nor legal grounds for his mother's conviction and sentence. He said the family has traveled six times from their home in Tabriz to Tehran to speak with Iranian officials, but in vain.
Amnesty said she received flogging of 99 lashes as per her sentence but was subsequently accused of "adultery while being married" in September 2006 during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband.
Mostafai said his client knew the man who, "killed her husband and because she was at home when the murder took place, she was accused as accomplice."
She was pardoned on the murder charges, but then was accused of adultery with that man, Mostafai said.
Mostafai added that such cases involving women in Iran arise due to difficulties in getting divorces with husbands despite, "having troubled marriages."
Enough! Enough fear. Enough pain. Enough agony. Enough torture. Enough death. E-NOUGH misery imposed by cowardly dictators hiding behind the safety net of blind religious tradition and the faithful.
I am a tolerant person. I believe that all countries have the right of autonomy, that religion is personal and should be left to believers to choose or reject, and that WEST does not always equal BEST.
I am not a Christian; I am not a Jew; I am not a Muslim. I do not follow any of the Abrahamic faith paths. I am not speaking out as an American, or a proponent of any political ideology. I am speaking simply as a human being, reaching out to other human beings. I am literally on my knees. I beg Iran and all Iranians to spare this woman as was promised. Please. Please.
— The Curator