Sakineh Ashtiani Still At Risk

Yesterday, misleading reports surfaced that Sakineh Ashtiani may have been released from prison in Iran.  Yet today we received reports that Iran’s state-controlled Press TV will tonight broadcast a new “confession” by the Iranian woman who faces possible execution by stoning or hanging.

Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme explains: “If reports are accurate that tonight’s broadcast will contain another televised ‘confession’ from Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, its potential impact on her case should not be underestimated.  If the authorities are seeking to use this ‘confession’ to try to construct a new case against her, for a crime that she’s already been tried and sentenced for, we would condemn this in the strongest terms.”

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was sentenced to a 10-year prison term in 2006 for the murder of her husband, which her lawyer has said was subsequently reduced to five years for “complicity” in the murder.

She was also sentenced to death by stoning for “adultery while married”. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is held in Tabriz Prison, East Azerbaijan province, awaiting the outcome of a judicial review of her stoning sentence.

According to media reports a production team from Press TV collected Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from prison, along with her son Sajjad Qaderzadeh, who is also currently detained, and took them to her former home to produce a “visual recount of the crime at the murder scene”, apparently for a “documentary”.


Fears Grow for Iran Stoning Case Lawyer and Son

As reports surfaced this week of the imminent execution of Iran’s Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, we are also grew increasingly concerned with the fate of her lawyer and son.  We fear they are being held solely for trying to pass on information about her case.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is the 43-year-old mother of two at risk of execution by stoning, held on death row in Iran since her conviction in 2006 on charges of “adultery while married”.

The Iranian State Prosecutor, in his role as spokesperson for the judiciary, confirmed on Monday that Javid Houtan Kiyan, Sakineh Ashtiani’s lawyer, had been arrested on October 10 and that he was still under investigation for links to “anti-revolutionary groups abroad”.  He also said that Javid Houtan Kiyan had been found in possession of three forged or duplicate ID cards.

Media reports have said that Javid Houtan Kiyan was arrested along with Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and two German nationals.

We fear that Javid Houtan Kiyan may have been detained for no more than fulfilling his responsibilities as Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s lawyer, and for talking to foreign nationals.

His detention – part of the Iranian authorities ongoing targeting of defence lawyers – further undermines an already deeply flawed justice system which has failed Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from the start.  She has been left for weeks without legal representation and without access to any family visits, which makes her situation all the more precarious.

The Iranian authorities have a track-record of bringing politically-motivated trumped up criminal charges against defense lawyers.


Iran Must End Harassment of Stoning Case Lawyer

We reported last month that Iran halted the stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. And while this may seem like cause for celebration, an uneasy cloud of uncertainty has shrouded this potential victory.  We still fear that Ashtiani may be hanged, as charges against her have surfaced in connection to the murder of her husband.

Mostafaei is defending Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was sentenced to death by stoning.

But this is not the only unsettling development for those involved in the case.  Yesterday, we denounced the arrest of Mohammad Mostafaei’s wife and brother-in-law, Fereshteh and Farhad Halimi, urging the Iranian authorities to stop harassing Mostafaei.

Mostafaei, a leading human rights lawyer, is defense counsel for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose sentence of death by stoning for alleged adultery recently provoked wide an international public outcry and is a focus of continuing protests and worldwide demands for clemency.

He was issued with a summons on July 21 requiring him to go to a branch of the Prosecutor’s Office in Evin Prison. He went there on July 24, was questioned for at least one hour and then was released. Later, however, he received a further summons by telephone. The same evening, his wife and her brother were arrested and have been detained since.

Mostafaei’s current whereabouts are not known. On the evening of July 24, he wrote on his Facebook account: “it is possible they will arrest me.”

Amnesty International is urging its membership to appeal to the head of the Iranian Judiciary and other authorities to stop harassing Mostafaei and release Fereshteh and Farhad Halimi.

Mother to be stoned to death in Iran

UPDATE:  Iran halted death by stoning for Ashtiani.  However she could still face the death penalty.  Please take action to stop the execution.

On June 30, Amnesty  reported that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian mother of two, could be stoned to death at any moment.

Her crime?  Adultery.

While extreme cases of adultery in the US turn into tabloid fodder, Iran’s penal code prescribes execution by stoning as the penalty for adultery by married persons.

Ashtiani was convicted after confessing in 2006.  Human rights lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, however, said Thursday that her confession was coerced; Ashtiani only confessed after suffering 99 lashes.  And though Ashtiani has since retracted her confession, Iran’s supreme court upheld the conviction in 2007.

Amnesty International reported in 2008 that the majority of those sentenced to death by stoning are women.

Mina Ahadi, head of the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, believes that pressure from groups like Amnesty International is the only likely way to save Ashtiani.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International made a new call to the Iranian government to immediately halt all executions and put a halt on all death sentences.  According to Amnesty, Iran has issued 126 executions so far in 2010.

In 2007, in reaction to another stoning case in Iran, Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, said, “To execute anyone by stoning is barbaric and disgraceful; to execute a woman for adultery in this cruel way simply beggars belief… Iran should abolish the sentence of stoning once and for all.

Of course, Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases.  Execution by stoning, however, is particularly cruel, because according to Iranian penal code, it is specifically designed to increase the victim’s suffering since the stones are deliberately chosen to be large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately.