Iranian Television Broadcasts ‘Confession’ from Woman Sentenced to Stoning Execution

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran –  Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to execution by stoning for alleged adultery has reportedly appeared on Iranian state television and ‘confessed’ to her crime.  The ‘confession’ was broadcast on Wednesday night, and Ashtiani [or a woman who identified herself as Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani] confessed to conspiring to murder her husband with her husband’s cousin, the man she is accused of having an affair with.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani / Photo courtesy of AP

The face of the woman who identified herself as Ashtiani was blurred, and her words were dubbed from Azeri, Ashtiani’s native language, into Persian.  These factors rendered positive identification of Ashtiani impossible.

The interview was broadcast the day after U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, urged Iran to honor treaty obligations which require Iran to respect the rights of citizens and to halt executions.

Ashtiani, a forty three-year-old mother of two, was first convicted of the crime of having an “illicit relationship” with two men in 2006 and received 99 lashes. Later that year an inquiry into whether she had committed “adultery while married” was opened and she was retried, receiving the sentence of execution by stoning.

Houtan Kian has taken on representation of Ashtiani since her last attorney, Mohammad Mostafaie, fled the country and sought asylum in Norway. He told the Guardian that the interview was genuine, and that Ashtiani was, in the days preceding the interview, “severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of the camera.” Kian added that he was worried that the judiciary would move quickly in order to carry out her death sentence now that they have a confession.

He reported that Ashtiani’s twenty two-year-old son and seventeen-year-old daughter were “completely traumatised by watching this programme.”

Nazanine Moshiri, an Al Jazeera reporter reporting from Tehran, said that a source connected to the Iranian judiciary has stated that is is unlikely that Ashtiani will be executed during Ramadan [which lasts until September 9th], and added that there remains a “small possibility” that her execution will be revoked.

The supposed confession comes nearly a month after her death sentence was suspended for judicial review.  Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East, Hassiba Hadj Sahroui, said that the broadcast calls into question the independence of the Iranian judiciary. Sahroui stated:

“If the judiciary in Iran is to be taken seriously, this ‘confession’ needs to be disregarded  and assurances given that it will not affect the review of her case.”

Mina Ahadi of the Iran Committee against Stoning (ICAS) said:

“It’s not the first time Iran has put an innocent victim on a televised programme and killed them on the basis of forced confessions – it has happened numerously in the first decade of the Islamic Revolution.”

Ashtiani’s case still remains to be heard before the Iranian Supreme Court.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Iran stoning woman ‘confesses’ – 12 August 2010

The Guardian – Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani ‘confesses’ to murder on Iran state TV – 12 August 2010

New York Times – Woman Sentenced to Death by Stoning Reportedly Appears on Iranian Television – 12 August 2010

Radio Free Europe – Lawyers Say Stoning Defendant ‘Tortured’ To Confess on TV – 12 August 2010


Iran: International Outcry Prompts Stay of Woman’s Stoning Execution

Photo: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Photo Courtesy of AP.

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – After an outpouring of international condemnation, Iranian authorities have announced that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman convicted of adultery, will not be executed by stoning. It is not yet clear whether her death sentence has been lifted entirely, and there is speculation that Ms. Ashtiani will be hanged instead.

Mohammed Mostafaei, Ms. Ashtiani’s attorney, told The Times: “This is a positive development but nothing is clear yet . . . “There have been cases in Iran of stonings being changed to hangings.”

Ahmad Fatemi of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution, an organization that has campagined for Ms. Ashtiani’s release, said: “It’s a tactical retreat . . . they never expected this kind of pressure, so they want to buy time.”

News of the stay of her execution comes after an international campaign to prevent her death received extensive international media coverage in the past week.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a forty three-year-old mother of two, has been in prison in Tabriz since 2006. She was sentenced and received ninety-nine lashes in May of 2006 for an “illicit relationship” outside of marriage.

In September of 2o06 another court reopened her adultery case amid allegations that she was involved in the murder of her husband.  She was cleared of all charges implicating her in the murder, but the second judge sentenced her again on the adultery charges – this time to death by stoning. The penalty was handed down on the basis of “judge’s knowledge.” This is a legal loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present.

Although Ms. Ashtiani retracted a confession which she was forced to make under duress, she was still found guilty.

Under Iran’s version of sharia law, sex before marriage is punishable by 100 lashes, while adultery carries a penalty of death by stoning. Convicted persons, who are almost entirely women, are buried up to their necks and stoned. If the convicted person can pull free from the pit during the stoning, the sentence will be commuted.  Men, who are only buried to their waists, are more likely to escape.

Photo: An execution by stoning which occurred after the Iranian Revolution. Photo Courtesy of Amnesty International.
Photo: An execution by stoning which occurred after the Iranian Revolution. Photo Courtesy of Amnesty International.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC that the sentence of stoning was a “medieval punishment.” He added: “If the punishment is carried out, it will disgust and appal the watching world.” 

For more information, please see:

BBC – Iran woman escapes stoning death for adultery – 9 July 2010

CNN – Iran denying woman will be executed by stoning – 9 July 2010

MailOnline –  Iran backs down: World fury forces Tehran to spare ‘adulterous’ mother from being stoned – but will they hang her instead? – 9 July 2010

 The Guardian – Iran halts woman’s death by stoning – 8 July 2010