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Ashtiani: a death foretold but still preventable

Fears are once again mounting that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in Iran is about to be executed.

As readers of this blog will know, this 43-year-old mother has been in grave danger of execution for months. Indeed she has become the world’s most-reported case of a person facing judicial killing.

I won’t go through the entire, complicated history of the case all over again – of how in 2006 she was sentenced to be stoned to death for “adultery while married” and of how since then she has apparently been juggled through murky legal chicanery into a position where she could be hanged for murder (see this Amnesty overview for full details).

Anyone reading the Amnesty briefing would surely see that Sakineh Mohammadi’s treatment has been a travesty of justice. At the very least, she has already served her maximum five-year sentence for complicity in her husband’s murder (leaving aside the gross unfairness of the legal proceedings in the investigation and trial).

Effectively the Iranian judicial authorities seem to have maneouvred the case so that somehow she is now in the position of being re-punished for the same offence – a form of double jeopardy. Indeed, the twisted case against Sakineh Mohammadi has lent a whole new meaning to idea of double jeopardy – from the “jeopardy” of facing a harrowing death by stoning to the new jeopardy of facing a (not much less) harrowing death in the hangman’s noose. Out of the frying pan and into the fire doesn’t come close …

Concern about her fate is, to use the jargon, “trending”. Hillary Clinton, Catherine Ashton, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, the UK’s minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt and many others have called on the Iranian authorities to stop the execution. On Twitter the #SaveSakineh is attracting huge support and a recent Amnesty tweet has just been a “Top Tweet” on the Twitter home page recently (a first for Amnesty, I’m told). Please take action here and please re-tweet and share this post.

Saving Sakineh is important for many reasons. As readers of my posts will know, I’m of the unshakeable view that no-one should be executed by the authorities in any country in any circumstances. If the Iranian authorities execute this woman even after the enormous international outcry it will surely spell doom for the hundreds of other prisoners in Iran who also face possible execution (and Iran is already a massive user of the death penalty).

As this tragic and disturbing case rumbles on and on it sometimes feels as if Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s death has been foretold over and over again. However, she is still alive and it’s still not too late to stop this needless and cruel execution.


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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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