Can An Iranian Woman Be Saved From Death By Stoning?

An Iranian woman is set to be stoned to death for adultery — but pressure from the international community could change that.

According to CNN, 42-year-old Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani of Tabriz, Iran was accused of adultery back in 2006, convicted based on the opinions of several judges and not on evidence, and punished with 99 lashes. But this year her case was reopened — according to the Guardian's Saeed Kamali Dehghan, because her husband died and she was suspected of his murder. Though she was found not guilty of the crime, the court decided to punish her again for adultery — and again, based its decision on "judge's knowledge," which Dehghan describes as "a loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present." This time, the penalty for the mother of two is death by stoning, which could apparently be carried out at any time.

The Iranian government has considered banning stoning, but women still bear the brunt of the practice, according to Amnesty International. Human rights activists also say women's testimony in court is valued less than men's — and one human rights lawyer believes Ashtiani is at even greater disadvantage as she is ethnically Azerbaijani and speaks Turkish, rather than Farsi.

There is some hope, however. Ahstiani's son has called on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intercede with the Tabriz authorities — he says a letter from them will stop his mother's execution. Mina Ahadi, head of the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, says "a very broad, international public movement" is needed to save Ashtiani, and that such movements have gotten results in the past. She explains, "Experience shows (that) ... when the pressure gets very high, the Islamic government starts to say something different." Supporters of Ashtiani's release have drafted an online petition — a letter from her children and an Amnesty International press release about her situation are also online. The State Dept. has already criticized the planned stoning, but more condemnation from abroad might sway the Iranian government — and that might be Ashtiani's last shot at survival.

Image via CNN.

Human Rights Activist Tries To Stop Death By Stoning For Iranian Woman [CNN]
Campaign For Iranian Woman Facing Death By Stoning [Guardian, via Huffington Post]
Woman To Be Stoned To Death: Son Reaction [CNN]
Letter From The Children Of Sakine Mohammadi: Protest Against Our Mother's Stoning [Mission Free Iran]
Document - Iran: Fears For Prisoners On Death Row In Iran [Amnesty International]
Help Sakine Mohammadi E Ashtiani Live! [Care2 Petition Site]