Iran stoning woman tortured to confess on TV: lawyer
A lawyer for an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning in the Islamic republic told a British daily she was tortured before confessing on state television to involvement in her husband's murder.
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani's lawyer told The Guardian newspaper on Thursday that his client, a 43-year-old mother of two, was forced to give the interview, recorded in Tabriz prison where she has been held for the past four years.
"She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera," lawyer Houtan Kian said on the newspaper's website.
The lawyer said he feared the Iranian authorities would act quickly to carry out the death sentence, which was reportedly commuted to hanging after an international outcry against her sentencing last month.
The Guardian gave no details of where the lawyer was speaking.
Another of her lawyers, Mohammad Mostafaie, fled Iran this month and is now in Norway after Iranian officials issued an arrest warrant for him and detained his wife.
The sentence against Mohammadi-Ashtiani was initially for "having an illicit relationship outside marriage," which drew condemnation from many countries.
But in the interview broadcast on state television, she said that a man with whom she was acquainted had offered to kill her husband and she let him carry out the crime.
In a separate interview with The Guardian last week, she said she had been acquitted of murder, "but the man who actually killed my husband was identified and imprisoned but he is not sentenced to death."
The television interview of the woman in Muslim face-covering was aired on Wednesday night during a political broadcast condemning Western "propaganda" over her case as part of pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
The chief justice of East Azerbaijan province, where the alleged murder took place in 2006, told the TV show that Mohammadi-Ashtiani injected her husband with a substance that made him unconscious before the killer electrocuted him.
Iranian officials have maintained the death sentence was for murder, although initial reports said she was acquitted of that charge and convicted for "having an illicit relationship outside marriage."
The stoning sentence has been temporarily suspended by Iranian judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani.
On Thursday, Amnesty International criticised both the television interview and the Iranian authorities.
"Televised 'confessions' have repeatedly been used by the authorities to incriminate individuals in custody. Many have later retracted these 'confessions,' stating they were coerced to make them," it said in a statement.
"Statements made in such televised exchanges should have no bearing on Iran's legal system, or the call to review her case. This latest video shows nothing more than the lack of evidence against Sakineh Ashtiani."
Amnesty said a response to a defence request for a judicial review of the case is expected on or around August 15.
"It appears that Iran's authorities have orchestrated this 'confession' following the call for a judicial review and now appear to be inventing new charges of murdering her husband," it said.
"If the judiciary in Iran is to be taken seriously, this 'confession' needs to be disregarded and assurances given that it will not affect the review of her case," said Amnesty.
© 2010 AFP