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Stoning case woman could be hung

Authorities in Iran are moving ahead with plans to execute a woman sentenced to death by stoning on an adultery conviction in a case that sparked an international outcry, but are considering whether to carry out the punishment by hanging instead.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is already behind bars, serving a 10-year sentence on a separate conviction in the murder of her husband. Amid the international outrage her case generated, officials suspended plans to carry out her death sentence on the adultery conviction in July last year.

On Sunday, however, a senior judiciary official said experts were studying whether the punishment of stoning could be changed to hanging.

"There is no haste. We are waiting to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging or not," said Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of justice department of East Azerbaijan province, where Ashtiani is jailed.

"As soon as the result (of the investigation) is obtained, we will carry out the sentence," he said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

The charge of a married woman having an illicit relationship requires a punishment of stoning. Sharifi added that judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani ordered a halt to stoning in order to allow Islamic experts to investigate whether the punishment can be altered in Ashtiani's case.

Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006 after the murder of her husband. She was later convicted of being an accessory to her husband's murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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