The world condemns stoning in Iran
The campaign to save Sakineh Ashtiani puts the Tehran regime under pressure – Five people have been executed for adultery since 2002, despite the treaty with EU
Sakineh Ashtiani -a 43 years old Iranian woman- is accused of adultery. Her life hangs in the balance. Although the Iranian Embassy in London said she would not be stoned, Tehran has not confirmed this information as of yesterday. The international community has expressed its outrage against this barbaric practice within the Iranian Penal Code. Despite the moratorium on the use of stoning for adulterers agreed with the European Union in 2002, Iran executed at least 5 people since then. Human rights activists denounced Iran’s extensive use of the death penalty, even for homosexuals and minors.
In it’s first public statement by the Iranian government regarding Ashtiani’s case, Iranian Embassy in London issued a statement denying “the false news” and assured that “according to information from the relevant judicial authorities, she will not be stoned”. The woman was sentenced to 99 lashes for “illicit relationship” with the alleged murderer of her husband in 2006. However, during her trial, the judge decided to reopen the case and despite a lack of witnesses, concluded that the relationship had occurred during the life of the deceased therefore it constituted “adultery” and decided for death by stoning.
Neither her complaint that she had been coerced into confessing her the crime, nor her application for pardon or clemency petitions by her 2 children have moved the authorities. Sajad, 22, and Farideh, 17, have always claimed the innocence of their mother. This is an unusual and brave step as the majority of families turn their backs on women accused of adultery with an outdated sense of honor. Having exhausted all legal options, both she and her lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, turned to human rights organizations and launched an international campaign to save Ashtiani.
It was this mobilization and the announcement of demonstrations to be held outside Iranian Embassies in the major European cities that caused the diplomatic legation in London to react yesterday. Neither her children nor her counsel received any communication from judicial officials. “I have not been informed that the sentence is suspended. My client is still in jail” Mostafaei told to the Agency France Presse. Like Ashtiani, there are at least 15 other people, 12 women and three men, waiting to be stoned, according to activists. “I have seen the statement from the Embassy. It is an attempt to coil international outrage and the campaign against stoning”, suggests Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In any case, Ghaemi argues in an e-mail that “there is no doubt that the sentence of death by stoning has been issued”.
The international impact of the case has put the Iranian authorities under pressure. The British Government, the EU External Representative, Lady Ashton, and 80 persons including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Nobel peace laureate José Ramos-Horta have denounced Iran’s barbarism. The cruelty of its Penal Code is an extremely sensitive subject. In theory Iran’s laws are based on Sharia, or Islamic law. However, there are more and more voices that challenge the political use of the law. For observers it has not gone unnoticed that the use of death penalty has risen in parallel with the restrictions on civil liberties since the rise to power of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
According to Amnesty International, Iran has executed 388 people last year, the second largest number after China, which has 20 times the population. Iran carried out at least 126 executions this year. The most common method is by hanging.In addition to all the doubt regarding Iran’s judicial process, human rights defenders present its explicit violations of international conventions that it has signed, such as the executions of minors.
Iranian spokesmen deny this charge because the judicial authorities wait until the inmates are 18 years old in order to carry out the sentences imposed for crimes committed earlier. Such is the case of Mohammad Reza Haddadi, who was sentenced to death for murder in 2004 when he was 15 years old and his execution by hanging was to be carried out last Wednesday. As in other cases, Haddadi retracted his initial confession and the two others involved in the crime also testified to his innocence.
According to Amnesty, at least 46 people that have been executed for crimes committed as minors.
Another bloody chapter is that of homosexuals. While being a homosexual in itself is not a crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is punished as sex outside of marriage. Executions of gays are often carried out with or without cause. When a cause is presented it’s usually rape, murder or drug trafficking. All of which are punishable by death. Such is the case of Ebrahim Hamidi, who according to the Iranian Queer Organization based in Canada, has been sentenced to death for sodomy “without any evidence and after having been tortured”. Sometimes they add the charge of homosexual to political dissidents in an apparent attempt to discredit them in front of the society that is very reluctant to accept this lifestyle.