x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Iran woman facing stoning death admits adultery

An Iranian woman, who was sentenced to death by stoning, has apparently confessed to adultery and talked about her husband's killing.

An Iranian woman whose sentencing to death by stoning has sparked international outrage has apparently confessed to adultery and talked about her husband's killing in a state television interview. In the interview, aired on on Wednesday night, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani also criticised her lawyer for publicising her case, saying it had brought shame on her family. A human rights campaign group, the International Committee Against Stoning, called the TV show "toxic propaganda". Ashtiani had previously denied the adultery accusations against her.

International media attention given to the case has highlighted Iran's high number of executions and may have spared Ashtiani from being stoned to death, according to her lawyer, who has fled to Europe. With her face blurred and her words voiced over to translate them into Farsi from local dialect, it was not immediately possible to independently verify the woman's identity. Ashtiani described how she had struck up a relationship with her husband's cousin.

"He told me: 'Let's kill your husband'. I totally could not believe that my husband would be killed. I thought he was joking," said Ashtiani. "Later, I found out that killing was his profession. "He came (to our house) and brought all the stuff. He brought electrical devices, plus wire and gloves. Later, he killed my husband by connecting him to the electricity," she said. The head of the judiciary of Iran's East Azerbaijan province told the television show that Ashtiani had injected an anaesthetic into her husband. "After the husband went unconscious, the real murderer killed the victim by connecting electricity to his neck," he said.

It was not clear whether the cousin had been arrested. Ashtiani, a mother of two, has already received 99 lashes for having an illicit relationship with two men. The stoning sentence has been suspended pending a judicial review but could still be carried out, an Iranian judiciary official has said. Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran's sharia law, enforced since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, said in an interview earlier this week that Ashtiani, who was convicted of "adultery while being married", would likely be spared stoning thanks to international pressure. Iranian authorities have issued a warrant for Mr Mostafaei's arrest and held his wife in jail for two weeks in an attempt to get him to return to Iran, he said. In the TV interview, Ashtiani said she would lodge a complaint against Mr Mostafaei, who is now in Norway.

"Why did you publicise my case? Why did you harm my reputation and dignity? Not all of my relatives and family members knew that I am prison. Why did you do this to me?" The show's host said Western media had given the case so much publicity in the hope of pressuring Iran to release three Americans who have been in prison for more than a year after being arrested near the Iraqi border where, their families say, they were hiking.

*Reuters