Yesterday, the Iranian government released its first public statement on the Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani case, claiming that she will not be executed by stoning. Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning after an adultery conviction. The Iranian Embassy in London stated that, “according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, she will not be executed by stoning punishment,” reports CNN. Those campaigning for Ashtiani”s release have not been pacified, however, for the vague statement implies that she might be executed another way, despite her very likely innocence. It is likely that the sentence was merely commuted to a hanging, not repealed.
In 2006, Ashtiani was convicted of having extramarital relations with two men, who subsequently killed her husband, according to Huliq. While she initially received 99 lashes for adultery, during an appeal of her case, the court sentenced her to death by stoning. Women executed by stoning are buried up to their necks (men are buried up to the waist) and a crowd throws stones at their head, which slowly leads to death. The case is being hotly contested, not only because of the “barbaric” nature of stoning but also because there was no concrete evidence that she committed the crime.
Thanks to a campaign championed by Ashtiani’s two children Sajid and Farideh; the head of of the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, Mina Ahadi; and Ashtiani’s lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, the international community is alarmed Ashtiani’s sentence and that stoning is a violation of human rights. US State Department Spokesman, Mark Toner, said “Stoning as a means of execution is tantamount to torture. It’s barbaric and an abhorrent act.” According to the National Post, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “I think that stoning is a medieval punishment that has no place in the modern world.”
According to Ahadi, “legally it’s all over”, Sajid is writing an open letter to Ayatollah [Ali] Khamene and Judiciary Chairman Sadegh Larijani to dismiss his mother’s charges. This appears to be the only way Ashtiani can avoid execution.
According to the CBC, in an online letter Ashtiani’s children wrote, “Since our childhood we have been acquainted with the pain of knowing that our mother is imprisoned and awaiting a catastrophe… our mother is in danger, she might be killed, and she deserves everyone’s help.”