Iran Plans to Execute Sakineh Ashtiani [updated]
Amid all the election hoopla, I nearly missed news from the International Committee Against Stonings saying Iran plans to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman originally sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery, tomorrow. From the committee’s press release:
According to news received by the International Committee against Stoning and International Committee against Execution on 1 November 2010, the authorities in Tehran have given the go ahead to Tabriz prison for the execution of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. It has been reported that she is to be executed this Wednesday, 3 November.”
Ashtiani’s case has provoked a worldwide campaign to save her and to ban stoning sentences in Iran. The Islamic republic is the only political regime in the world that has been constantly meting out stoning sentences during the 31 years of its existence. Majority of the victims are women. Stoning victims are buried up to their chest in a hole and have stones hurled at their heads until they die from their injuries.
A 43-year-old mother of two, Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006. She had earlier been sentenced to 99 lashes for having an “illicit relationship” with two men after her husband was murdered in 2005.
Following a huge international outcry against the sentencing, in September Iran said it would review Ashtian’s conviction though she would still face the charge of being an accomplice in her husband’s murder. In fact, during his visit to New York for a UN conference on disarmament the same month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went so far as to say that stoning didn’t exist in Iran. “Ms. Mohammadi was never sentenced to stoning. This was news that was produced and incorrect,” he told ABC news’ Chirstiane Amanpour during an interview.
Yet in the weeks that followed, Ashtiani’s son, Sajjad, and attorney Houtan Khain, both of whom have been fighting to save her, have been arrested (along with two German journalists who were trying to talk with them). It’s being reported that they may have been tortured in prison. Sajjad’s whereabouts are currently unknown. And now the news of Ashtiani’s pending execution.
The International Committee Against Stonings has been calling on the public to come and protest the latest development and has requested foreign governments to put pressure on Iran to stay the execution.
On Tuesday, several Western nations including the US, Canada and UK, condemned the planned execution, calling it “unacceptable” and “completely out of line.” But none of the countries have made any mention of taking any strong action, like cutting off diplomatic ties.
In the US, given it was election day, this dismaying news got buried beneath poll-related headlines. Like me, many might have missed it and failed to take action.
And now I fear it might be too late. It’s already tomorrow in Iran.
UPDATE, Nov 3: A Reprieve, for now
Iranian officials announced today that no final decision has been reached on Ashitani’s case.
The Associated Press reports that the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, made a statement confirming this ata news conference in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Mottaki said:
Everyone has to be punished for murder. The person has killed her husband and I think this fact will be considered as a crime in every country … But in this case the final decision has not been made yet.
Iranian officials are now accusing the West of spreading false news about Ashtiani. However, concern over her fate remains.
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