Iran: Two sisters face execution by stoning

Amnesty International today warned that two sisters, Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat are facing execution by stoning, for "adultery”, in Iran. Amnesty International members in the UK and around the world are calling on the authorities to commute the sentences of death by stoning immediately.

The Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights were arrested on 4 February 2007 after Zohreh Kabiri-niat’s husband filed a complaint against her and her sisters, Azar and Azzam, and also Azar’s husband, Mohammadreza Bodaghi, and another man. He claimed that they had had “illicit relations” and submitted as evidence video footage from a camera he had secretly installed in his house, which reportedly showed the two Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights with another man.

The five were tried in March 2007 and sentenced to flogging for "having illicit relations"; Zohreh also received five years’ imprisonment for forming “a centre of corruption”. But after the floggings were carried out, fresh charges of "committing adultery while being married" were brought against Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat. On 6 August 2007. Both were found guilty and were sentenced to death by stoning.

The charge of "adultery" was substantiated solely by the judge’s “knowledge”, based on the video evidence and statements the sisters had made during their interrogation. Zohreh Kabiri-niat later said, "I do not accept my 'confessions' under interrogations, and I deny whatever it is that they claim I said."

Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat lodged an appeal but the Supreme Court judges rejected their lawyer’s defence that the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights denied the offence, that the video evidence did not actually show the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights having sex, and that they had not confessed four times before the judge as is required by Islamic law. The court confirmed the initial verdict of stoning to death, and ruled that it be sent to the appropriate authorities for implementation.

A new lawyer representing the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights told journalist Marjan Lagha’i that, "the case has fundamental problems, since a person can not be tried twice for the same crime. Yet these two sisters have been tried twice in the same case, and two sentences have been issued for them… the circumstances that are required to prove adultery - confession by the accused on four different occasions that can be corroborated by the testimony of four eyewitnesses to the alleged crime - are entirely absent, and there is absolutely no legal document in this case that a judge can use to issue a stoning sentence… Given that I view this sentence to be against the principles of Sharia, as well as the criminal laws [of Iran], I have filed an official objection, and I have asked that the Head of Judiciary review the case once again."

Background
Amnesty International welcomes moves in Iran towards reforming the law on stoning, but urges that any new legislation permits neither stoning nor any other form of execution for "adultery while being married".

A moratorium on execution by stoning was ordered by the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, in December 2002. Despite this, sentences of death by stoning in Iran are still being passed and, on occasion, carried out.

Anti-stoning campaigners have reported that the first stonings since the moratorium was imposed took place in May 2006, when a woman, Mahboubeh, and a man, Abbas, were stoned to death in a cemetery in the city of Mashhad for murdering Mahboubeh’s husband, and for "adultery". Part of the cemetery was cordoned off from the public, and more than 100 members of the Revolutionary Guard, and members of the Basij Forces were among those who stoned the couple to death. In July 2007, a man, Ja’far Kiani, was stoned to death in Aghcheh-kand; the authorities later said this was a “mistake”. Mokarremeh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two Children's rights and who was sentenced with him, is still under sentence of death by stoning.

In mid-2006, a group of Iranian human rights defenders began a campaign to abolish stoning. Since the Stop Stoning Forever campaign began, five people have been saved from stoning. Others have been granted stays of execution, and some of the cases are being reviewed or re-tried. Eleven Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (including Zohreh and Azar Kabiri-niat) and two men are known to be under sentence of death by stoning. Activists in the campaign have faced persecution.

A new version of the Iranian Penal Code is currently under consideration by the Majles, which, if passed, would appear to allow for stoning sentences to be changed to execution by other means or flogging.

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