Iran accuses West of using stoning woman case for 'pressure'

3rd November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Tehran accused the West of trying to pressurise it over the case of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning, as an exiled activist said the woman was not executed on Wednesday as feared.

"They (Western nations) have become so shameless that they have turned the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani who has committed crime and treason into a human rights case against our nation," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

"It has become a symbol of women's freedom in Western nations and with impudence they want to free her. Thus, they are trying to use this ordinary case as a pressure lever against our nation," he was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

His assertion came after exiled Iranian rights activist Mina Ahadi triggered fresh outcry in the West after voicing fears that Mohammadi-Ashtiani could be executed as early as Wednesday.

Speaking from her base in Germany on Wednesday, however, the activist said that Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a mother-of-two, "was not executed today."

"Execution time (for the day) has now passed, so it won't happen today (Wednesday). But the danger remains and it could still happen at any time," Ahadi of the International Committee Against Stoning told AFP.

She said "some countries have been in contact with Iranian government representatives. It is clear that all this attention played a role," she added.

"But the execution has been delayed, not cancelled."

She said that according to sources in Iran, Mohammadi-Ashtiani's name was on a list of people to be executed in the coming days or weeks drawn up by Iran's Supreme Court.

This was communicated by letter to the prison in Tabriz, northwest Iran, where she is being held, Ahadi added.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by two different courts in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz in separate trials in 2006.

The first death sentence, by hanging, for her involvement in the murder of her husband, was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.

But the second, by stoning, was on a charge of adultery levelled over several relationships, notably with the man convicted of her husband's murder, and was upheld by another appeals court the same year.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani's case raised further international controversy when her son Sajjad Qaderzadeh and lawyer were arrested last month in Iran, along with two German nationals.

The Germans were reportedly interviewing the son when they were arrested. The two were granted consular access in late October.

Since July, Iran has repeatedly said the stoning sentence of Mohammadi-Ashtiani has been stayed pending a final decision.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Mohammadi-Ashtiani's case "has not proceeded with the transparency and due process guaranteed under Iranian law."

"The United States joins the international community in calling for Iran to immediately halt any plans for Ms. Ashtiani's execution and to handle her case with utmost transparency," Clinton said.

© 2010 AFP

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