TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The controversial death sentence by stoning for an Iranian woman convicted of adultery will not be implemented for now, said a judicial official on Sunday.
The world outcry over the death sentence has become the latest issue in Iran’s fraught relationship with the international community.
Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the top judicial official in the province where the mother of two was convicted, told the Iranian state news agency that her crimes were “various and very serious” and not limited to adultery, but that the sentence “will not be implemented for the time being.”
He added Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s stoning would still take place if the judiciary wanted, despite the “propaganda” by the West.
The United States, Britain and international human rights groups have all urged Tehran not to carry out the sentence.
The first indication that the government had changed its mind came with statement by the Iranian embassy in London that the stoning would not occur.
Ashtiani is currently being held in East Azerbaijan province’s jail.
Human Rights Watch, one of several groups publicizing Ashtiani’s case, said she was first convicted in May 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men following the death of her husband — for which a court in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, sentenced her to 99 lashes.
But later that year she was also convicted of adultery, despite having retracted a confession which she claims was made under duress.
Stoning was widely imposed in the years following the 1979 Islamic revolution, and even though Iran’s judiciary still regularly hands down such sentences, they are often converted to other punishments.
The last known stoning was carried out in 2007, although the government rarely confirms that such punishments have been meted out.
Under Islamic rulings, a man is usually buried up to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her chest with her hands also buried. Those carrying out the verdict then throw stones until the condemned dies.
Ashtiani’s stoning was approved by the country’s Supreme Court, but the law could allow the judiciary head to order another trial or appeal for a pardon from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.