Iranian stoning woman not executed as feared, activist says

TEHRAN has accused the West of trying to pressurise it over the case of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning, as an exiled activist said the woman was not executed today as feared.

“They (Western nations) have become so shameless that they have turned the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, who has committed crime and treason, into a human rights case against our nation,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

“It has become a symbol of women’s freedom in Western nations and with impudence they want to free her. Thus, they are trying to use this ordinary case as a pressure lever against our nation,” he was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

“The other side is only looking for pretexts against the Islamic establishment and if … we give into their demands they will assert, so there will be nothing left of the revolution and the establishment,” Mehmanparast said on state news agency IRNA.

His assertion came after exiled Iranian rights activist Mina Ahadi triggered fresh outcry in the West after voicing fears that Mohammadi-Ashtiani could be executed as early as today.

Speaking from her base in Germany, the activist said that Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a mother-of-two, “was not executed today.”

“Execution time (for the day) has now passed, so it won’t happen today (Wednesday). But the danger remains and it could still happen at any time,” Ahadi of the International Committee Against Stoning said.

“Some countries have been in contact with Iranian government representatives. It is clear that all this attention played a role.

“But the execution has been delayed, not canceled.”

She said that according to sources in Iran, Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s name was on a list of people to be executed in the coming days or weeks drawn up by Iran’s Supreme Court.

This was communicated by letter to the prison in Tabriz, northwest Iran, where she is being held, Ms Ahadi added.

But France said it was informed by Iran that a final decision on Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s execution was still pending.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement that he spoke to his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki who told him that the “final verdict in the Sakineh Ashtiani case has not been announced by the Iranian judiciary and that news about her possible execution was not based on reality.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague meanwhile urged Iran to call off the planned execution.

“This is a barbaric punishment and I think it will damage Iran in the eyes of the world,” Mr Hague told journalists after meeting Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“I would urge them, even now, to desist from it.”

Mehmanparast also charged that the West was using “the media as a tool” to tighten the screws on Iran, which also faces wide-ranging international sanctions to pressure it to halt its nuclear drive.

The West accuses Tehran of seeking to build an atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy program, a charge Iran vehemently denies.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by two different courts in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz in separate trials in 2006.

The first death sentence, by hanging, for her involvement in the murder of her husband, was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.

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

Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s case raised further international controversy when her son Sajjad Qaderzadeh and lawyer were arrested last month in Iran, along with two German nationals.

The Germans were reportedly interviewing the son when they were arrested. The two were granted consular access in late October.

Since July, Iran has repeatedly said the stoning sentence of Mohammadi-Ashtiani has been stayed pending a final decision.

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