Iranian woman's execution delayed amid backlash
Published Wednesday, November 3, 2010 4:33PM EDT
The execution of an Iranian woman who has been sentenced to death has reportedly been stayed for the time being, amid growing criticism of the case from South America to Europe.
The International Committee against Execution said the Iranian government decided to delay the execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, after members of the international community called the sentence troubling and barbaric.
Ashtiani currently faces death by hanging, after Iran changed her charges from adultery to playing a role in the 2005 murder of her husband.
Earlier this week, a Germany-based rights group said that 43-year-old mother's hanging was imminent, reportedly on Wednesday.
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon condemned the country, accusing Iran of failing in nearly every category related to law and order.
"Canada is deeply concerned by reports that Ms. Ashtiani may be sentenced to death by hanging on Wednesday, November 3, 2010," Cannon said in a statement. "We are also concerned by Ms. Ashtiani's ongoing detention, harassment by judicial authorities and denial of due process, as well as by the use of false or coerced confessions in her trial."
The 43-year-old mother of two has been held in prison since 2006 and has already received 99 lashes for having an "illicit relationship" with two men.
She was originally charged with adultery, a sentence that ends in stoning, which elicited Western backlash to the form of execution.
Ashtiani has since been convicted of being an accomplice in her husband's death, which could result in her being hanged instead.
France's foreign minister said on Wednesday that he had received assurances that Iran has not reached a final verdict in the case and that reports of the impending execution were inaccurate.
He also said the French government is "very worried" about the case.
Brazil's female president-elect, Dilma Rousseff, said it would be "barbaric" to stone Ashtiani to death for adultery. However, she did not say what she would do regarding the case once she takes office on Jan. 1.
The European Union and the human rights organization Council of Europe have already condemned Iran. Before her punishment was changed to hanging, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called stoning "barbaric."
Two German reporters were arrested while reportedly trying to interview Ashtiani's son in October, highlighting how sensitive Iran is over the case.
Laureen Harper, the wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, co-authored an open letter with Heather Reisman, president of Indigo Books, on Tuesday decrying the "flagrant disregard of women's rights in Iran."
The letter urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to release Ashtiani unconditionally.
"Certainly, this would be welcomed by women around the world as seen as a deeply symbolic gesture toward the betterment of all Iranian women," the letter concludes.
Cannon said the case was more evidence of the deterioration of human rights in Iran.
In September, an Iranian-Canadian blogger was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for insulting Islamic thoughts and religious figures online.
With files from The Associated Press