Iranian stoning woman ‘confesses’ to murder

An Iranian woman granted a reprieve
from being stoned to death on dubious adultery charges has appeared on
state-run TV to “confess” to complicity in murder and denounce the
lawyer who previously saved her life. There are reports that she was tortured
before the appearance.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a
43-year-old mother of two, initially was convicted of an “illicit relationship”
after the death of her husband in 2005. She suffered 99 lashes and was sentenced
to be stoned to death. Ashtiani had retracted a confession she said was
obtained under duress in 2006, and strenuously denied all the charges against
her. Her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, launched a campaign that brought
international condemnation of her death sentence, which authorities eventually
stayed.

But since the Iranian judiciary
granted her a reprieve, the government in Tehran, reportedly embarrassed by the
global attention, brought Mostafaei in for hours of questioning at the
notorious Evin prison. When he used a brief release to flee the country by car, on foot,
and horseback into Turkey and then on to Norway, his wife and brother-in-law
were arrested as a way to try to pressure him into returning.

Now, with the high-profile
Mostafaei unable to work for his clients, Ashtiani apparently was forced to
appear on a television show called “20:30.” Another of her lawyers,
Houtan Kian, said “she was severely beaten up and tortured” for two
days, “until she accepted to appear in front of camera.”

The purported TV confession, made
by a woman named as Ashtiani, with her face covered, moves away from the
adultery charge that initially led to her stoning sentence. In the interview,
the woman says she knew that her husband was to be murdered by his cousin in
2005, and that the man came to her house with “electric devices, wire, and
gloves. He then killed my husband by electrocuting him. He asked me before to
send my children to their grandmother’s house.”

A judge, also interviewed during
the show, according to Agence France-Presse,
said Ashtiani had injected her husband with a substance to make him fall asleep
before the electric shock was administered.

The broadcast also denounced
“Western propaganda” about Ashtiani’s case, and the woman criticized
Mostafaei, asking, “Why has he taken my case to the TV? Why has he disgraced
me?” There are widespread fears that despite (or perhaps because of)
worldwide condemnation by governments and human-rights groups, Ashtiani will
now be swiftly executed, probably by hanging rather than stoning.

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