Claims Iranian stoning sentence woman freed

A picture released by Iran's state-run Press TV shows Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani with her son Sajjad in Tabriz on December 4.

IRAN is yet to confirm claims that an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning has been freed.

Photographs have been released of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani while on home leave last week but without any official Iranian confirmation of a report that she had been released.

In Germany, a campaign group said Sakineh had been freed, along with her son and lawyer. “We have got news from Iran that they are free,” Mina Ahadi, spokeswoman for the Anti-Stoning Committee, told AFP.

But there was no confirmation from the authorities in Tehran or the state media, and a German foreign ministry spokesman also said: “We cannot confirm the news.”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, however, immediately hailed the reported release and lauded it as “a great day for human rights.”

Amid the confusion, the pictures secured by Western media earlier the same day apparently showing Sakineh at her house last Sunday during a brief home leave for a television interview could have sparked false reports of a release.

Sakineh, a 43-year-old mother of two, was initially given death sentences by two different courts in the northwestern city of Tabriz in separate trials in 2006.

A sentence to hang for her involvement in the murder of her husband was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.

But a second sentence of death by stoning on charges of adultery levelled over several relationships, notably with the man convicted of her husband’s murder, was upheld by another appeals court the same year.

Sakineh’s current lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian, was arrested in the northwestern city of Tabriz in September along with two Germans who were conducting an interview with her son.

The Germans, who entered Iran on tourist visas and worked for the Bild am Sonntag Sunday newspaper, are accused of spying.

Rejecting the international outcry over the death sentence, the head of Iran’s High Human Rights Council drew parallels between her case and that of Teresa Lewis, a 41-year-old American grandmother who was executed in the United States in late September for murder.

“Our judiciary made a lot of efforts (in reviewing the case) and we think there is a good chance her life could be saved,” Mohammed Javad Larijani told Iran’s English-language Press TV in November.

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