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Iran: Prevent Woman's Execution for Adultery

Judiciary Should End Stoning as a Punishment and Halt All Executions


The Iranian judiciary should halt plans to execute a woman convicted
of adultery, Human Rights Watch said today. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a
43 year-old mother of two who was previously punished with flogging for
having an "illicit relationship," faces imminent death by stoning
after a second court convicted her of adultery during marriage.

On May 15, 2006, a criminal court in East Azerbaijan province found
Ashtiani guilty of having an "illicit relationship" with two men
following the death of her husband. She was sentenced to flogging and
was given 99 lashes. In September 2006, during the murder trial of a man
accused of killing Ashtiani's husband, another court reopened an
adultery case based on events that allegedly took place before her
husband died and eventually convicted her of "adultery while being
married." During the trial, Ashtiani retracted a confession she had made
during a pretrial interrogation, alleging that she had been forced to
make the confession under duress. She has continued to deny the adultery

"Death by stoning is always cruel and inhuman, and it is especially
abhorrent in cases where judges rely on their own hunches instead of
evidence to proclaim a defendant guilty," said Nadya Khalife, Middle
East women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Iran should
immediately put a stop to this execution - and all executions."

Under Iran's penal code, adultery is a "crime against God" for both
men and women. It is punishable by 100 lashes for unmarried men and
women, but married offenders are sentenced to death by stoning. Cases of
adultery must be proven either by a repeated confession by the
defendant or by the testimony of witnesses - four men or three men and
two women.

However, Iran's penal code also allows judges in hodud (morality)
crimes such as adultery to use their own "knowledge" to determine
whether an accused is guilty in the absence of direct evidence.

Ashtiani's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, said in a recent posting on
his blog, Modafe', that two of the five judges found Ashtiani not guilty
during the second trial. The three remaining judges found her guilty of
adultery on the basis of their own "knowledge." Ashtiani was convicted
by a majority of votes.

The Supreme Court confirmed Ashtiani's death sentence on May 27,
2007. She has exhausted the legal appeals process and the judiciary has
denied her repeated requests for clemency.

Mostafaei issued a
statement on his blog several days ago indicating that he fears his
client could be executed at any moment. She is being held in Tabriz

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances
because of its cruel, inhumane, and irreversible nature. The
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a
party, requires even those states that have not yet abolished the death
penalty to restrict it to the "most serious crimes." The United
Nations General Assembly has called upon all states to introduce a
moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.