Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Iran stoning woman 'confesses'

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is facing the punishment of stoning to death in Iran, on charges of adultery (AP)

Iranian television has broadcast a purported confession by a woman who had faced death by stoning on an adultery conviction, a case that has attracted UK and US concern, an offer of asylum from Brazil and international protests.

Human Rights Watch says Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, was first convicted in May 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men after the death of her husband and was sentenced by a court to 99 lashes. Later that year she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned, even though she retracted a confession that she claims was made under duress.

Iran last month lifted the stoning sentence for the time being after international outrage over the brutality of the punishment.

Mrs Ashtiani has also been convicted of involvement in the death of her husband, whom Iranian prosecutors say was murdered. She could still face execution by hanging in the two cases. Iranian officials have not elaborated on the murder case.

The outcry over the death sentence is the latest source of friction between Iran and the international community, with the US, Britain and human rights groups urging Tehran to stay the execution. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Iran this week to release all political prisoners and expressed alarm about several specific detainees, including Mrs Ashtiani. Brazil, which has friendly relations with Iran, offered asylum to the mother of two.

The broadcast of the purported confession was seen as an effort by Iran to ward off international pressure and possibly to draw attention to the murder allegation, a crime punishable by death in the US and other countries as well.

The woman identified as Mrs Ashtiani said in the broadcast she was an unwitting accomplice to her husband's murder. Her face was blurred and a woman who was not seen translated her words into Farsi from Azeri Turkish, which is spoken in parts of Iran.

She said the man, whom she did not identify, brought electrical devices, wire and gloves to her house and electrocuted her husband while she watched.

"This so-called confession forms part of growing catalogue of other forced confessions and self-incriminating statements made by many detainees in the past year," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

In the broadcast, the woman also criticised her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, for publicising her case. "Why did he televise the case? Why did he discredit me before my family members and relatives who didn't know I'm in jail?" she said. "Now, I have a complaint against him."

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