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Iran ‘backs down’ over stoning of woman

London, July 10, 2010

Iran appeared to have backed down over the stoning of a woman for adultery amid an international outcry, although her lawyer said she remained in jail and could still be executed by other means.

The Iranian embassy in London said Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani would no longer be stoned to death, a practice condemned by Western governments as "medieval" and tantamount to torture, The Times reported.

The embassy said "according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, Mohammadi-Ashtiani will not be executed by stoning”, said a report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.

Her lawyer in Iran, however, said he had yet to receive any confirmation of the news, and bemoaned the vagueness of the statement which did not say whether she might be killed by other means.

"I have yet to be told of any stay in implementation of the sentence," Mohammad Mostafavi said. "My client remains in prison."

The embassy did not elaborate on whether her conviction had been quashed or the sentence had been commuted to an alternative form of capital punishment - in Iran normally hanging from a crane inside prison walls.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43, was convicted in 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men and received 99 lashes, before being convicted of adultery and sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International.

The rights group warned on July 1 that the mother-of-two's execution may be "imminent" and in the past week, the European Union, Britain, France and the US have urged the Iranian authorities to stay the execution.

An open letter condemning the execution has also been signed by figures such as former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, three ex-British foreign ministers, Nobel peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta and actor Robert De Niro.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, urged Iran to spare Mohammadi-Ashtiani's life, saying a "mere change" in the method of execution was not enough.

"To punish - and in some cases execute - people for being in consenting relationships is no business of the state," the Amnesty official said.

The rights group said it was aware of at least 10 other people - including seven women - under sentence of stoning. – Reuters




Tags: Iran | London | woman | Stoning |

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