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Iran: Amnesty condemns flogging of woman forced into prostitution, appeals against stoning of others

Amnesty International today condemned as 'cruel, inhuman and degrading' the flogging of a woman charged with adultery after she was allegedly forced into prostitution by her husband. ‘Parisa’ was released on 5 December, after receiving 99 lashes. The Supreme Court had changed her sentence of execution by stoning to flogging after reviewing the case.

In November, the Supreme Court also rejected the sentence of stoning against Shamameh Ghorbani (known as Malek). Her case will now be sent back to a lower court for a retrial.

Amnesty International welcomed the news that the sentences of stoning have been overturned. The organisation called on the Iranian authorities to overturn the sentences of death by stoning that have been passed on seven other people and ultimately to abolish the use of stoning altogether. Those others sentenced are Ashraf Kalhori, Iran, Khayrieh, Kobra Najjar, Soghra Mola'i and Fatemeh. Iran has so far executed 165 people in 2006.

Parisa had been arrested in April 2004 after police in Shiraz raided a brothel where she was working and arrested those present, including her husband. He had allegedly forced Parisa into prostitution, as the family was poor and he was unemployed. During initial interrogations, Parisa and her husband both confessed to a charge of adultery, but said that their family's poverty had forced them to do what they had done.

During her trial Parisa retracted her confession of adultery. Under Iranian law, adultery can only be proved by the testimony of eyewitnesses (the number required varying for different types of adultery), a confession by the defendant (repeated four times), or the Judge's "knowledge". Parisa and her husband were convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning on 21 June 2004. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on 15 November 2005.

Parisa's lawyer, an activist from the "Stop Stoning Forever" campaign who is also representing her husband, lodged an objection against the stoning sentences with the Discernment Branch of the Supreme Court. On 8 November 2006, Branch 15 of the Supreme Court reviewed the cases, to determine whether the sentence of stoning had been appropriate and consistent with Islamic law. During the entire court session, Parisa was holding the hands of her three-year-old son. On 27th November, the Supreme Court changed the sentence to flogging for both Parisa and her husband. Her husband has reportedly been sentenced to a period of being exiled to a different city.

In a separate case, Shamameh Ghorbani was sentenced to execution by stoning for adultery by a court in Oromieh in June 2006. Her brothers and husband reportedly murdered a man that they found in her house, and she too was nearly killed when they stabbed her. In November, it was reported that the Supreme Court had rejected her stoning sentence and ordered a retrial, citing incomplete investigations in the case. It is believed that Shamameh Ghorbani confessed to adultery in court, believing that this would protect her brothers and husband from prosecution for murder.

Under Iranian law, a murder may not be punished if committed defending one's honor or that of relatives. In a letter to the Criminal Court, Shamameh Ghorbani is reported to have said, "Since I am a rural, illiterate woman and I didn't know the law, I thought that if I confessed to a relationship with the dead man, I could clear my brothers and husband of intentional murder. I said these untrue words in court and then understood I had done myself an injury."

Background information

In mid-2006, a group of Iranian human rights defenders, mostly Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, among them activists, journalists and lawyers, began a campaign to abolish stoning, following reports that a man and a woman had been stoned to death in Mashhad on 7 May 2006, despite an official moratorium on such executions. They identified at least nine Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and two men under sentence of death by stoning, and lawyers in the group undertook to represent them.

On 21 November 2006, the Minister of Justice, Jamal Karimi-Rad, denied that stonings were being carried out in Iran, a claim repeated on 8 December by the Head of the Prisons Oganisation in Tehran. The campaigners against stoning have since stated in response that there is irrefutable evidence that the Mashhad stoning did indeed occur.

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