Iran Sakineh stoning - another TV 'confession' hampers justice yet further

A confusing night last night for those of us following the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman still facing execution by stoning (or hanging) in Iran for the ‘crime’ of adultery.

Reports first said that she may have been released. While there has been so much misinformation put about on this case, largely from various Iranian officials, as these reports became more numerous it really looked like there might be some hope.

Then that hope was dashed in a particularly cruel way.

I should caveat everything here with the words “if reports are accurate…” as it’s still not possible to be 100% clear about what the situation is. Amnesty’s researchers have been trying and failing to contact reliable sources about this case in Iran, most of whom (for example Sakineh’s son and lawyers) have been arrested or forced to flee the country. But it appears that there will be another televised ‘confession’ from Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani tonight aired on Iran’s state-controlled Press TV (which you can watch here on satellite/cable, I’ve heard the broadcast is at 8.00 or 8.30 GMT tonight). The pictures of Sakineh and her son at home, it seems, were taken when the two were taken there to be interviewed by Press TV.

As if taking someone from prison to their home to film a ‘confession’ to air on TV is not outrageous enough, we should bear in mind a couple of other factors. Firstly, a judicial review of Sakineh’s ‘execution by stoning’ sentence is still being conducted by Iran’s Supreme Court.. To organise a televised ‘confession’ mid-way through a judicial review of a very serious case – where a woman’s life hangs in the balance – makes a total mockery of Iran’s legal system. Permission to conduct the interview must have come from the judiciary. This is quite amazing in itself.

On top of that, Sakineh is currently serving a prison sentence for her alleged role in her husband’s murder, after she was tried and convicted. So why, one might ask, is she being required to confess? It looks like the Iranian authorities may be using this ‘confession’ to try to construct a new case against her, for a crime that she’s already been tried and sentenced for. More behaviour that brings the fairness of the legal process into serious dispute.

We're not able to confirm, as many are suggesting, that Sakineh was forced into making this 'confession'. But it would be far from uncommon if she had been. Amnesty has seen many other forced ‘confessions’ and self-incriminating statements made by detainees and broadcast on state media in Iran. Many of those who’ve made similar ‘confessions’ have later retracted them, saying that they were coerced, sometimes under torture.

Amid all this confusion, a few things are clear:

1. The Iranian authorities should not execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani by any means and should release her if she continues to be held solely on the grounds of her consenting sex life. If you agree, take action at www.amnesty.org.uk/sakineh

2. Her son Sajjad Qaderzadeh, and lawyer Javid Houtan Kiyan, together with anyone else locked up just for peacefully highlighting Sakineh’s case, are prisoners of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.

3. We’ll be hearing more on this story.

While it’s important that we keep up the pressure on Iran, it’s also worth remembering that this isn’t the only human rights abuse going on in Iran. As Student Day was celebrated in Iran on Tuesday this week, student activists Milad Assadi, Behareh Hedayat, Majid Tavakkoli, Majid Dorri and Zia Nabavi were all serving lengthy prison sentences imposed solely for their peaceful activism. Lik eth ehundreds of prisoners of conscience in Iran, they must be released immediately and unconditionally.

 

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