Iran official says life of woman may be spared

TEHRAN - There is a good chance the life of an Iranian woman under sentence of death for adultery will be spared, a senior official was quoted as saying on Monday.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 23 Nov 2010, 10:29 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:17 AM

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, originally sentenced to be stoned to death, is also accused of being an accessory in her husband’s murder.

The stoning sentence was suspended earlier this year after it angered human rights groups and caused an international outcry but she could still face execution.

“Iran’s Council of Human Rights has helped a lot to reduce her sentence and we think there is a good chance that her life could be saved,” the head of the council, Mohammed Javad Larijani told Iran’s English-language Press TV, without giving further details. Under Islamic law in force in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, adultery may be punished by death by stoning and crimes such as murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death.

Earlier this month, the United States condemned the reported plans to execute Ashtiani, Britain warned Iran against going ahead with the punishment and France asked Iran to pardon her.

The case has worsened relations between Iran and the West, already seriously damaged by a dispute over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva offered asylum to Ashtiani in July, prompting an embarrassing public rejection of his offer by Iran which said he was a “humane and sensitive character” but was not in possession of all the facts.

Human rights group Amnesty International has said Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men and received 99 lashes as her sentence.

Amnesty said that, despite this, she was subsequently convicted of “adultery while being married”, which it said she denied, and was sentenced to death by stoning.

Amnesty has listed Iran as the world’s second most prolific executioner in 2008 after China, and says it put to death at least 346 people in 2008.

The Iranian authorities dismiss allegations of rights abuses, saying they are following Islamic law.

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