Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani (Azerbaijani: Səkinə Məhəmmədi Aştiani, Persian: سکینه محمدی آشتیانی), is an Iranian Azeri woman who has gained the attention of human rights groups and people throughout the world for a conviction of adultery and accompanying sentence of death by stoning. Since 2006, she has been imprisoned and under a death sentence in Tabriz, Iran after being convicted of adultery. An international campaign to overturn her sentence was started by her children, Farideh and Sajjad Qaderzadeh through a letter about their mother's case which was published by mission free Iran. Prominent media sources picked up on the news via interviews with her son, which included information on her stoning sentence. The international publicity generated by Ashtiani's situation led to numerous diplomatic conflicts between Iran's government and the heads of certain western governments. As a result, her execution has been stayed indefinitely. Shortly after the international campaign began, various Iranian officials stated that Sakineh is also guilty of various charges related to the murder of her husband. The range of charges included murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, and complicity. However, major human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, some NGOs and her lawyers have stated that she was acquitted of murder, and that Sakineh initially received a 10-year sentence for complicity, where her actions were disturbed the public order. She was convicted of "disrupting the public order" through complicity in murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. It was reduced to 5 years on appeal. She was convicted twice of adultery in separate trials and sentenced to death by stoning. 
As of January 2011, her stoning sentence has been "suspended", and she remains in prison in Tabriz, Iran. It is unclear how long she will remain, although she may remain there until her original sentence of 10 years in prison is completed.
In December 2011 the Iranian authorities indicated that they intended to go ahead with her execution, but by hanging. However, it has not yet been carried out, and Iranian officials afterwards denied that they intended to execute her.
On 24 July 2012, Amnesty International stressed that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s fate is still unclear, while her former lawyer Javid Houtan Kiyan languishes in jail.
Adultery Law in Iran
The civil and criminal law (the Islamic Penal Code) is determined by Iran's Parliament (known as Majlis), and it must conform to and not contradict Sharia law. The law states that unmarried adulterers will receive 100 lashes, and married adulterers will be sentenced to death by stoning. However, it demands heavy proof requirements. To be convicted, the person either must confess to the crime, have 4 witnesses testify against him/her, or in some rare cases, the judges may use circumstantial evidence. If the person is repentant, the judge can give a reduced sentence of 99 lashes. In addition, the person may also spend 1 year in prison. Due to the high proof requirements, convictions for adultery are relatively rare, and even when they occur, the death sentence for that crime is almost never given, except in serious cases such as when the spouse died (which is what occurred in Sakineh's case). It is to be noted that the maximum punishment for adultery in the Qu'ran was 100 lashes.
In 2002, Iran had put a moratorium on stoning to death (although some were still carried out). In January 2012, Iran officially changed its law, saying that adultery could be punished by hanging, rather than stoning, possibly ending that punishment in Iran.
In 2005 Ebrahim Qaderzadeh, Ashtiani's husband, aged 44, was murdered by electrocution by his cousin Isa Taheri.
Taheri and Ashtiani were arrested as suspects, and according to some sources, Sakineh was accused of committing adultery by the wife of one of her late husband's coworkers. On May 15, 2006 Sakineh pleaded guilty for having an "illicit relationship outside marriage" with another man (court records show it was not Taheri, but an unknown third person). The court handed down a punishment of 99 lashes; her son watched the whipping. In addition, she may have received 1 year in prison as well.
 In his trial, Taheri was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Under Islamic law, murderers can be forgiven and pay blood money (diyya) to the victim's family, or the family can demand retribution (qisas) and have the murderer executed. Sajjad Qaderzadeh, Ashtiani's son, forgave Taheri, accepted blood money, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. According to some sources, he was later freed and is no longer in prison today.
In September 2006, her murder case came to trial as well. While she was not found guilty of the actual murder (since she did not physically kill her husband and the murderer was forgiven), she was given 10 years in prison for complicity in murder and disrupting the public order, equal to Taheri's sentence. It was later reduced to 5 years in prison upon appeal. She was also brought to trial again for adultery. Her son Sajjad Qaderzadeh stated that he was unaware of this new trial, and she had been convicted for adultery previously, making this new trial "illegal". However, this trial may have been for adultery committed with Taheri, rather than a "second man" as records from her previous trial seemed to indicate. This time, the court intended to sentence her to death, because of her alleged role in her husband's murder. Sakineh recanted her previous confession and pleaded "not guilty". Out of the 5 ruling judges, only 3 found her guilty, the other 2 saying while they did not doubt her guilt, since she was previously convicted of adultery, she should not be punished again.
Due to the 3-2 majority vote, she was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Ashtiani may have had difficulty understanding the case because she speaks Azeri and not Farsi. Malek Ejdar Sharifi, head of East Azerbaijan Province's judiciary said, "She was sentenced to capital punishment... for committing murder, manslaughter and adultery."[not in citation given] However, according to advocacy group Mission Free Iran, this is contrary to the documentation on Ashtiani's case. Iran's Supreme Court confirmed her death sentence in 2007. Her appeal was denied, as was her request for clemency by the "Amnesty and Pardons Commission" of Iran. 
In mid-2010 Ashtiani became the subject of an international campaign, prompting renewed developments in her case.
The Press Section of the Iranian Embassy in London, issued the following statement on July 8, 2010:
"Considering the statements made by the Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt on an Iranian national, Mrs Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and her execution, hereby this mission denies the false news aired in this respect and notifies the Ministry that according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, she will not be executed by stoning punishment."
By July 9, 2010, the Iranian government banned reporters in Iran from reporting on any details of the case. One of her lawyers, Mohammed Mostafaei, fled the country when he was charged with "financial fraud". Mostafaei stated that he was being harassed for defending his client, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, as well as other clients. Mostafaei sought asylum internationally, first in Turkey, and then Norway, where he was reunited with his family on September 2, 2010.
On August 4, 2010, the Iranian authorities told Ashtiani's new lawyer, Houtan Kian, that she faces death by hanging. On the same day, Tehran's High Court rejected a reopening of the trial and instead considered the Tabriz prosecutor's demand to execute Ashtiani. Her case was subsequently transferred to the deputy prosecutor-general Saeed Mortazavi. Ashtiani's son was told that the file on his father's murder case has been lost. Her son added that "they are lying about the charges against my mother. She was acquitted of murdering my father but now the government is building up their own story against her". Her son's statement is contradicted by numerous Iranian news accounts describing her as being convicted of both complicity in murder and adultery, although those reports may not be accurate.
On August 12, 2010 Ashtiani was televised from Tabriz prison on an Iranian state-run television program which showed her confessing in native Azerbaijani language to adultery and involvement with the murder of her husband once again. Her lawyer alleged she was tortured for two days prior to the interview.
On August 28 Ashtiani was given the 24-hour notice that she was to be hanged at dawn the next day. She wrote her last will and testament just before the call to morning prayer at 4:00 AM local time, when she expected to be led to the gallows at Tabriz Prison. However the sentence was stayed. It may have been a mock execution. Also on August 28, 2010, British newspaper The Times published a photograph of an unveiled woman, identified as Ashtiani; the photograph had been provided to the Times by her former lawyer Mohammed Mostafaei.
On September 2, 2010 Ashtiani's son and current lawyer reported that she had been additionally convicted of "spreading corruption and indecency" for appearing unveiled and sentenced to 99 lashes. The Times subsequently reported that the photograph was not of Mrs. Ashtiani, but of Susan Hejrat, an Iranian activist living in Sweden. Western newspapers said Ashtiani was then subjected to another round of 99 lashes, predicated on the mistaken photograph. However, Ashtiani was again shown on Iranian television on September 15, 2010, where she said that she not been tortured and had not been whipped as a result of The Times photograph. The punishment for adultery is 99 lashes, and the maximum possible punishment for appearing unveiled is 74 lashes. However the 99 lashes may have been for her adultery, since her death sentence was not going to be carried out.
Suspension of the stoning sentence
On September 8, 2010, Ramin Mehmanparast, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, confirmed that the government had suspended the stoning sentence pending a review of her husband's murder case. Isa Taheri was found guilty and convicted, and received 10 years' imprisonment after Ashtiani's children forgave him, sparing him the death sentence. He had been found guilty of complicity in murder in 2006, and received 10 years in jail.
Following vociferous domestic and international controversy and outcry over stoning in the early years of the Islamic republic, the government placed a moratorium on stoning in 2002. In 2008, Iran's judiciary decided to submit a new draft penal code to parliament for approval.[not in citation given] In January 2005, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary, Jamal Karimirad, was quoted as saying "Stoning has been dropped from the penal code for a long time, and in the Islamic republic, we do not see such punishments being carried out", further adding that if stoning sentences were passed by lower courts, they were overruled by higher courts and "no such verdicts have been carried out". In 2008, Iran's judiciary scrapped stoning in draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval. As of June 2009, Iran's parliament has been reviewing and revising the Islamic penal code to omit stoning.
Mehmanparast added,[clarification needed] that she was guilty of both adultery and murder and that her case was undeserving of the international attention it had drawn. He said that releasing murderers should not be made into a human rights issue and called on countries criticising Iran to release all their murderers as well. According to the human rights organisation Iran Human Rights, Ashtiani remains in danger of capital punishment by hanging.
Iran Human Rights also expressed its concerns over Mehmanparast's statement about "Sakineh's murder charge being investigated for the final verdict". Commenting on this statement, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, said: "The fact that the authorities are mentioning murder charges now, could mean that Ashtiani is in danger of being sentenced to death for murder". France's Foreign Minister, according to Reuters reported that, based on a telephone call to his Iranian counterpart, Ashtiani's hanging might be called off. A human rights group claimed that Ashtiani was sentenced to be hanged on November 3, 2010; this never materialized, and Iranian authorities clarified that Ashtiani was "held in the prison of Tabriz and in perfect health."
Her son was arrested in October 2010, after speaking to two German reporters, who had entered the country on tourist visas. He was released on $40,000 bail in December. On January 1, 2011, he was shown on television admitting he did not doubt his mother was guilty... but urged Iranian authorities to let her live. He also said it was unfair that Isa Taheri was free. Press TV reported that the deceased husband's "next of kin waived their right to retribution", (see diyya and qisas) and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
There have been some cases of political prisoners confessing on live television under torture or extreme pressure in Iran. It is not clear certain if this was such a case or not.
Mrs. Ashtiani's two children began a campaign to overturn their mother's conviction. In June 2010, they wrote a letter to the world asking for help to save their mother, which was then first published on June 26, 2010, by Mission Free Iran's International Committee against Stoning. The letter brought widespread attention in 2010 as a result of grassroots campaigning through social networking sites that led to the letter's being passed along to mainstream mass media.
During July 2010, protests occurred in Rome, London and Washington, D.C., among other cities. Calls to stop her execution came from leading human rights groups Avaaz, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as from several high-profile celebrities. A petition was created in support of her release, and has been signed by several additional prominent activists.
On July 31, 2010, the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said he would ask the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to send Mrs. Ashtiani to Brazil, where she would be granted asylum. According to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, the Brazilian ambassador in Tehran was directly instructed to communicate their asylum proposal to the Iranian government. Iranian officials responded by suggesting that Lula had "not received enough information about the case". U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned Mrs. Ashtiani in a declaration on August 10, 2010, urging Iran to respect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens.
In late August 2010, the Iranian newspaper Kayhan called Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the First Lady of France, a "prostitute" who "deserved death" after she condemned the stoning sentence against Mrs. Ashtiani. Iranian officials condemned this statement and Ahmadinejad condemned Kayhan's comments toward Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy's as a "crime" and "against Islam" .
A resolution by the European Parliament on September 8, 2010, declared that "a sentence of death by stoning can never be justified". The vote passed by a margin of 658–1, the sole vote against having been made in error and later rectified, according to the Associated Press. On September 29, 2010, EveryOne Group, a human rights organisation based in Italy, appealed to the Iranian Authorities for an act of compassion for Mrs. Ashtiani.
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