Human rights activists are rallying the international community to stop an Iranian woman being stoned to death. In 2006, Sakineh Mohammadie 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. Her sentence has caused widespread outrage because there is no conclusive evidence that she actually committed a crime.
Ashtiani’s attorney, Mohammad Mostafaei, an acclaimed human rights lawyer, told the Guardian, “This is an absolutely illegal sentence. Two of five judges who investigated Sakineh’s case in Tabriz prison concluded that there’s no forensic evidence of adultery.” For a case of adultery to be punishable by stoning, four witnesses must be able to confirm the act, according to Article 74 of the Iranian penal code. In Ashtiani’s case, there are no witnesses. Additionally, the trial was conducted in Farsi, while Ashtiani, from Northwestern Iran, speaks Turkish.
Ashtiani’s children, son Sajad and daughter Farideh, are leading the campaign for her freedom. Sajad told the Guardian, “She’s innocent, she’s been there for five years for doing nothing…Imagining her, bound inside a deep hole in the ground, stoned to death, has been a nightmare for me and my sister for all these years.” 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. Sentences are commuted if one is able to dig oneself out of the hole.
Iranian journalist Niusha Boghrati told the Media Line, “Stoning, or other intense abuses of human rights that happen in Iran, are not only about the Islamic Republic insisting on carrying out the sentence itself, it’s a way for the regime to defy civil rights activists and civil society.” He continued, “the government wants to prove to civil society groups [that no matter] how much support you get from the UN or international human rights groups, we still have the capacity to curb you.”