“No evidence” in her file to justify barbaric sentence

(3 July 2010) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran appealed to the Iranian Judiciary to halt the execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year old mother of two children convicted of adultery, who faces death by stoning, and for her case be reviewed or her request for a pardon be granted.

The Campaign also called on the Iranian parliament to immediately abolish the punishment of death by stoning.

The terms of the sentence under Iranian law call for Ashtiani to be killed with medium –sized stones, so she will die slowly, in great pain.  She has already been punished with 99 lashes for having an “illicit relationship,” and later again charged, for the same crime, with adultery, which carries the death penalty in Iran.  According to her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, no evidence exists in her file to justify an adultery conviction, and as a member of the Azerbaijani minority, her inability to understand the language of the court prevented a fair trial.

“If Ashtiani is brutally stoned to death, especially under these circumstances, it will confirm the view that the Iranian judicial system is operating completely outside the norms of international human rights standards, and human decency,” stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

“We appeal for a stay of execution and referral of this case for a fresh review,” he said.

The Campaign notes that Iranian family laws subject women to pressures placing them at severe disadvantages in the event of marital conflicts.  Women cannot seek divorce when trapped in dysfunctional marriages and victimized by domestic violence, which increases the likelihood of women resorting to violence against their husbands to free themselves from abusive marriages.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was trapped in a marriage in which she was being abused.  She had met another man, and their relationship led to the murder of her husband by her male companion. The husband’s family did not seek retribution and the man was sentenced to ten years in prison. She was also sentenced to ten years imprisonment as an accomplice.

Subsequently, a panel of five judges decided to also issue a sentence for her having an illicit extramarital relationship with the man, although no evidence existed in the file. Mostafaie told the Campaign that two judges ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove the charge, but three judges, based on their “knowledge and evaluation,” decided such an act had taken place and sentenced her to death by stoning.

“No evidence exists in Ashtiani’s file to justify a death sentence, and the sentence needs to be overturned,” Rhodes said.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran strongly recommends that, in view of a clear miscarriage of justice in this case, that the head of the Iranian Judiciary should refer the case for review to another court.

The Campaign also notes that the most urgent consideration should be given to Ashtiani’s request for a pardon.