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IRAN: Hard-line official insists stoning penalty for adultery stands, but is under a required review

July 10, 2010 |  8:28 am
The hard-line chief of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, the longtime political operator and insider Mohammad-Javad Larijani, says the sentence of stoning against an impoverished mother of two accused of adultery stands, even though it is under a required review. 

Iran-mohammad-javad-larijaniIn other words, 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani could still be buried up to her neck and pelted with small rocks until she dies because she was convicted of having sex outside of marriage.

Larijani, a well-connected regime loyalist, blamed the Western media for making a big deal out of nothing.

"Our judicial system cannot change its course because of Western attack and media pressure," he told the official Islamic Republic News Agency in a report published late Friday (in Persian). "The Western media's attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran comes under a pretext every time, and in recent years it is the instructions of the Islamic religious law that have been the target of their attacks."

No one's quite sure what's next for Ashtiani. Larijani said Ashtiani's sentence of death by stoning had not been rescinded, contradicting a statement issued Thursday by the Islamic Republic's embassy in London. 

"Regarding this criminal, I must point out that first of all the punishment of death by stoning exists in our constitution but the esteemed judges issue this verdict on very rare occasions," said Larijani, whose brothers include the head of the judiciary branch and the speaker of parliament. "This case has passed its long procedure, and the defendant was first sentenced to 90 lashes and then, in another court, to death by stoning. The review of this sentence in currently underway."

Her lawyer said even if they halt the stoning, he's worried they'll put her to death by some other means. "We do not know which penalty will be substituted for stoning," her lawyer told Babylon & Beyond. 

He said he's asked for her pardon four times, especially since no private individual is seeking her prosecution -- just the government. "For the sake of the Islamic system and its reputation in the world, nobody should be stoned to death anymore," said Ashtiani's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafai. "If the judiciary branch is attaching importance to the prestige of the system in the world, then the stoning should be stopped."

But Larijani, whom Western diplomats have described as a cynical and power-hungry solider of the Islamic Republic, rejected the contention that the judiciary should consider world opinion or that the high-profile international campaign in support of Ashtiani might make Iran's judicial authorities think twice about putting her to death for committing a sex crime. 

"The commotion that the Western media has started in connection with this case will not affect our judges' views," he said. "The execution of Islamic religious laws on death by stoning, hijab and inheritance has always faced their audacious animosity and basically any issue which hints of religious law is always opposed by them." 

-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: Mohammad-Javad Larijani. Credit: Islamic Republic News Agency