IRAN: Courts confirm two more stoning sentences on adultery charges
Amid the controversy and international outcry sparked by the stoning sentence handed down to a 43-year-old Iranian mother of two, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, Iran's supreme court reportedly has sentenced two more people to stoning on charges of adultery.
The court's decision came just days after the Iranian judiciary revealed fresh details about Ashtiani's case.
According to Iran's Human Rights Activists News Agency, the court approved on Aug. 28 a verdict of stoning to death for Vali Janfeshani and Sariyeh Ebadi, convicted of having an extramarital affair.
Janfeshani and Ebadi have been held in the central prison of Orumiyeh in Iran's West Azarbaijan governorate since 2008, according to HRANA. The group said the sentences came out of a "vague and ambiguous judicial process" and that Janfeshani and Ebadi were not granted the right to choose their own defense lawyers.
The decree of death by stoning for Ashtiani, a sentence that Iran appears uncertain about carrying out, has sparked international anger and drawn widespread criticism of the Islamic Republic. Over the past weeks, human-rights activists have staged demonstrations in dozens of international cities against the sentencing.
Iran lashed back, reportedly telling Western nations not to stick their noses into the matter and that the Islamic Republic would not tolerate interference in the case. A statement by the judiciary that appeared in Iranian newspapers over the weekend said Ashtiani was being executed for the 2005 murder of her husband as well as for having an affair with the killer. Ashtiani's children have insisted she had nothing to do with the slaying.
"Though the judiciary branch is not obliged legally to reveal the content of the dossier prior to the conclusion of the investigation," the statement said, "and each verdict is issued away from any hubbub and any influence from the atmospheric condition ... the human-rights headquarters of the judiciary branch has decided to issue a statement to enlighten the public opinion."
Ashtiani's husband, Ebrahim Qaderzadeh, 44, was found dead on his bathroom floor in a town called Meshkinshahr in northwestern Iran. According to the statement, Ashtiani then confessed to having had an extramarital affair with the killer, Eisa Taheri, and said she had seduced him and tried to convince him to marry her. The judiciary said she also confessed to having planned the murder in collaboration with Taheri.
The court then sentenced Sakineh to stoning on a charge of adultery based on several articles of the Islamic judiciary code, a verdict endorsed by the supreme court and upheld by the human-rights headquarters of the judiciary, led by the well-connected Mohammad-Javad Larijani, whose brothers include Iran's speaker of parliament and judiciary chief.
A separate court also sentenced Ashtiani to death based on the principle of gheisas, which refers to the biblical concept of an eye for an eye. Meanwhile, Taheri was handed a 10-year sentence, according to the statement.
A hardline newspaper, Kayhan, described the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, singer-actress Carla Bruni, as a "prostitute" for weighing in on the case.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: A woman holds a photo of Sakineh Ashtiani at a recent rally in London. Credit: Agence France-Presse