Leading figures urge freedom for Iranian stoning woman

13th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

More than 80 leading figures signed a letter Monday urging Iran to free Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to death by stoning in a case that has attracted global attention.

The signatories said she had "suffered enough".

The letter to The Times is addressed to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and signed by artists, academics and politicians, including Robert de Niro, Pete Townshend and V.S Naipaul.

It follows widespread reports last week that she had been freed, which proved to be incorrect.

Instead Mohammadi Ashtiani appeared in a documentary made by Iranian television Friday taking part in what appeared to be a re-enactment of her husband's murder.

The programme also carried interviews with her son and her lawyer, who are also both in jail.

"Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has suffered enough," the letter reads.

"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."

Other signatories include actors Robert Redford, Robert de Niro, Colin Firth and Juliette Binoche, Nobel literature laureates Wole Soyinka and V.S. Naipaul, musicians Pete Townshend and Sting, and artist Damien Hirst.

Former French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and British opposition leader Ed Miliband have also signed.

Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was sentenced to death by two different courts in the northwestern city of Tabriz in separate trials in 2006.

Her sentence to hang for her involvement in the murder of her husband was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.

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

© 2010 AFP

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