Officials comments add new confusion to Ashtiani stoning case

The case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, facing execution in Iran by stoning or hanging, for adultery or murder, is as complicated as it is unjust. This situation is not helped by recent statements by Iranian officials, including yesterday by the Prosecutor General and last week by President Ahmedinejad himself.

Reports this morning, based on the Prosecutor General’s comments, stated that Sakineh would now be executed by hanging for murder.

However Sakineh’s lawyer has told Amnesty that she has already been tried and convicted of her husband’s murder, but that this sentence was reduced to five years for assisting in the murder, after a judicial review.

Another person has confessed to the murder and has been pardoned by the victim’s family. Sakineh should not face any more charges related to this crime.

Her (separate) conviction for adultery is presently being judicially reviewed by the Supreme Court and Sakineh could still face execution by stoning or hanging on these grounds.

The trial for adultery was unfair: it was in a language she did not understand and based on a confession that she retracted as it was made under duress. And she was convicted partly on the basis of ‘knowledge of the judge’, a provision allowing judges to pass sentence based on supposed ‘knowledge’ without requiring any evidence.

If the Iranian authorities, through recent statements from the Prosecutor general and others, are trying to manoeuvre into a situation whereby Sakineh will be hanged for murder, this would be a gross violation of human rights and of Iran’s own legal system.

Confusing, isn’t it. That’s one reason why we’re calling on the Iranian authorities to clarify Sakineh’s current legal status and conduct a thorough and transparent review of the case.

Moreover, Amnesty continues to urge the Iranian authorities not to execute Sakineh by any means. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and while stoning is one of its cruellest forms, an execution by hanging would be little better – it is still a violent death at the hands of the state.

To put it more simply: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani should not be executed by any means, on any charge.

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