Iran: Amnesty launches web appeal for 'stoning' woman still at risk of execution

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, is still held on death row and could still face execution, warned Amnesty International today (16 July) as it launched a new web appeal on her behalf. After international protests, officials in Tabriz in north-west Iran, asked the head of Iran’s judiciary to agree that her sentence of stoning to death be converted to execution by hanging.

Amnesty also raised concerns about Ashtiani’s son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh. He was summoned to Tabriz’s Central Prison on14 July and is believed to have been questioned by Ministry of Intelligence officials, who may have threatened him not to give further interviews about his mother’s case.

Amnesty is asking people to go to www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty to send an appeal to the Iranian authorities, calling on them to:

- ensure that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is not executed by stoning or any other means;
- clarify Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s current legal status, including to her son and her lawyers;
- enact legislation that bans stoning as a legal punishment and does not permit the use of other forms of the death penalty or flogging or imprisonment for those convicted of “adultery” or other crimes;
- ensure that Sajjad Qaderzadeh is not harassed in connection with his expressions of concern regarding the life of his mother.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The international outcry at Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s stoning sentence has been hugely encouraging and has already had an impact in Iran. But Sakineh is still not safe.

“She should not be executed by any means and we will not stop campaigning for her until her death sentence has been lifted.

“It’s also worrying that her son Sajjad may be at risk, just for speaking out about his fears for his mother. The authorities should ensure that he is not harassed any further and is free to speak to media and human rights defenders about his mother’s case.”

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in May 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men and received 99 lashes as her sentence. Despite this, she was then also convicted of “adultery while being married", which she has denied, and sentenced to death by stoning. She is held in Tabriz Prison, north-west Iran.

Following an international outcry in recent weeks against her sentence of death by stoning, the Iranian Embassy in London stated on 8 July that “Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani would not be executed by stoning" but made no mention of other possible means of execution. On 10 July, the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights said that her case would be reviewed, although he affirmed that Iranian law permits execution by stoning.

However, on 11 July, the head of the provincial judiciary in East Azerbaijan, Malek Ezhder Sharifi, said that the stoning sentence was still in place and could be implemented at any time by a decision of the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani. Malek Ezhder Sharifi also said that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani had been sentenced to death in connection with the murder of her husband but this has been disputed by one of her lawyers, who says that she was pardoned by the dead man’s family but was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment as an ‘accessory’ to the crime.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty by all methods and for all crimes.

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