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Celebs' Iran stoning sentence plea

Some of the UK's household names have joined calls for the release of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery.

Rock star Sting, actors Billy Connolly and Colin Firth, and comedians Matt Lucas and James Corden are among the signatories to a letter calling on Iran's leaders to free Ms Ashtiani, her son and her lawyer.

Telling how she has already spent five years in prison and received 99 lashes, they said: "Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has suffered enough."

Others who have signed the letter - published in the Times newspaper - include the actors Robert Redford and Robert de Niro, Booker prize winner Howard Jacobson, artist Damien Hirst and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

It reads: "Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has suffered enough. Forced by international pressure to suspend her execution by stoning for alleged adultery, the Iranian government is now attempting to resurrect the charge that she murdered her husband - a charge for which she has already been tried.

"She has already spent five years in prison, and suffered 99 lashes, while the man who was convicted of her husband's murder, and with whom she allegedly had an affair, is now free, having been pardoned by Ms Ashtiani's children. We, the undersigned, call on the government of Iran to release immediately Ms Ashtiani, her son Sajad Ghaderzade, and her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian, from incarceration."

The letter follows a broadcast in Iran last week of a confession and reconstruction of the alleged crime featuring Ms Ashtiani, 43.

The mother-of-two was brought from the prison to her home outside the city of Tabriz in north-western Iran where she was shown acting out the alleged December 2005 killing, complete with an actor portraying her husband.

Seen as an effort by the government to deflect international criticism over the case, Friday's broadcast was denounced as "coerced" by human rights campaigners.

Iran put her stoning sentence for adultery on hold in July for review by the supreme court.

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