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.