Monday, August 16, 2010

Iran: ‘Confession,’ Stoning Sentence a Mockery of Justice

For Immediate Release
Iran: ‘Confession,’ Stoning Sentence a Mockery of Justice
(Beirut, August 13, 2010) – A televised confession by Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani heightens the already grave concern that Iran will soon execute the 43-year-old woman, Human Rights Watch said today.Ashtiani, initially sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted in 2006 of adultery, told state-run television on August 11, 2010, that she participated in the murder of her husband. Iranian officials have repeatedly suggested over the past several weeks, in response to the international outcry over the stoning sentence, that Ashtiani murdered her husband.“The men who run Iran apparently have no shame at all, first pronouncing the barbaric sentence of death by stoning and then resorting to a televised confession,” said Nadya Khalife, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Under the circumstances there is every reason to believe that this so-called confession was coerced. ”During the televised interview, Ashtiani’s face was blurred and her words were voiced over with translations from her mother tongue, Azeri, into Farsi. In the broadcast Ashtiani also criticized her previous lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, who sought refuge in Norway after Iranian security forces threatened him and his family, accusing him of publicizing her case so he could gain asylum abroad.Four days earlier, Ashtiani told The Guardian newspaper, through an intermediary, that an Iranian court had “acquitted” her in 2006 of conspiring to murder her husband.“They’re lying,” she told The Guardian. “They are embarrassed by the international attention on my case and they are desperately trying to distract attention and confuse the media so that they can kill me in secret.”On May 15, 2006, a criminal court in East Azerbaijan province found Ashtiani guilty of having an “illicit relationship” with two men following the death of her husband in 2005. The court sentenced her to flogging, and she was given 99 lashes. In September 2006, in a separate case, the government put a man to whom it referred to as “Isa T.,” on trial for the murder of Ashtiani’s husband and also put her on trial for conspiracy to murder.At that point another court opened a separate adultery case against her based on events that allegedly took place before her husband’s death, convicted her of “adultery during marriage,” and sentenced her to death by stoning. During this trial, Ashtiani retracted a confession she had made during a pretrial interrogation, alleging that it had been coerced. She has continued to deny the adultery charge.
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