Saturday, July 10, 2010

Her Crime: Adultery; Her Punishment: DEATH

They will wrap the bulk of her body in a white shroud; bind her arms and legs; bury her upright to her waist; then STONE her until she DIES as slowly and painfully as possible – after telling the swelling, eager crowd to select the rocks they will hurl with the utmost care, so that they will not kill her immediately.

Just where and in what barbaric era would this have happened? July 2010, Iran.

When I began this blog, I created my alter ego, “Danu's Daughter,” who would lead readers through the amazing and varied world of religious behavior and beliefs without judgment, with as much neutrality as possible.

Not this time.

I had done this because I felt there were too many loud opinions about anything and everything and not enough information conveyed in markedly egocentric blogs. I wanted readers to decide how they felt, working hard to make Danu's Daughter as unobtrusive as possible, even invisible rather than a part of the process.

Not this time.

Here are the facts:

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was convicted on May 15, 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men, according to Amnesty International and her lawyer.

She has now been sentenced to death by stoning.

Her lawyer, Mohommad Mostafaei, said Mohammadi-Ashtiani confessed to the crime after being subjected to 99 lashes. She later recanted that confession and has denied wrongdoing, he said.

Her conviction was based not on evidence but on the determination of three out of five judges, he added. She has asked forgiveness from the court but the judges refused to grant clemency. Iran's supreme court upheld the death conviction in 2007.

Apparently, Iran was reviewing that sentence of stoning, a rights official said, but her lawyer warned today that there was no guarantee the execution would be halted.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, Iran's top human rights official, said late Friday that the verdict of death by stoning against Mohammadi-Ashtiani is being reviewed by the judiciary.

"She was sentenced to 90 lashes by one court and stoning by another. The verdict is under revision," Larijani was quoted as saying by state news agency Islamic Republic News Agency.

He said the chief of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, was of the opinion that it was preferable to use another penalty instead of stoning, "and that is true for Ms. Mohammadi-Ashtiani."

Larijani did not say what penalty she could face instead, but added: "The penalty of stoning exists under the law but the judges rarely use it."

Mostafai told news agencies today that he had yet to receive any official confirmation that the stoning sentence had been revised.

"There is no guarantee that it will be halted," he said.

"Sentences such as stoning will be closely reviewed and probably changed," Larijani told Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency.

[Above: Protesters in London demonstrate against the planned stoning, and to mark the 11th Anniversary of the July 9th Iranian student uprising.]

In London today protesters waved flags and chanted anti-government slogans to the beat of a drum in front of the Iranian Embassy. They condemned executions in Iran – by stoning and hanging.

But Larijani said protests from outside Iran will not affect Mohammadi-Ashtiani's case.

"The Western attacks have no effect on the opinion of our judges," he told the news agency.

Larijani's comments seemed to contradict Iran's public statements made Thursday from its embassy in London that strongly suggested Mohammadi-Ashtiani would not be stoned.

The public statement said, "this mission denies the false news aired in this respect and...according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran, she will not be executed by stoning punishment.

"It is notable that this kind of punishment has rarely been implemented in Iran and various means and remedies must be probed and exhausted to finally come up with such a punishment," the embassy statement concluded.

Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Mohammedie Ashtiani, who appealed Wednesday to Iran's courts to spare his mother's life and also appealed to the world for help via Twitter, said he won't accept any decision short of his mother's freedom.

Through human rights activist Mina Ahadi, the son said he would be satisfied only when Iran's judiciary officially drops the charges against her.

Ahadi has said that only an international campaign designed to pressure the Islamic regime in Tehran could save Mohammadi-Ashtiani's life.

"Legally, it's all over," said Ahadi, who heads the International Committee Against Stoning and the Death Penalty, earlier this week.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani's son wrote in an open letter to government officials that there was neither evidence nor legal grounds for his mother's conviction and sentence. He said the family has traveled six times from their home in Tabriz to Tehran to speak with Iranian officials, but in vain.

Amnesty said she received flogging of 99 lashes as per her sentence but was subsequently accused of "adultery while being married" in September 2006 during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband.

Mostafai said his client knew the man who, "killed her husband and because she was at home when the murder took place, she was accused as accomplice."

She was pardoned on the murder charges, but then accused of adultery with that man, Mostafai said.

Mostafai added that such cases involving women in Iran arise due to difficulties in getting divorces with husbands despite, "having troubled marriages."

Enough! Enough fear. Enough pain. Enough agony. Enough torture. Enough death. E-NOUGH misery imposed by cowardly dictators hiding behind the safety net of blind religious tradition and the faithful.

I am a tolerant person. I believe that all countries have the right of autonomy, that religion is personal and should be left to believers to choose or reject, and that WEST does not always equal BEST.

I am not a Christian; I am not a Jew; I am not a Muslim. I do not follow any of the Abrahamic faith paths. I am not speaking out as an American, or a proponent of any political ideology. I am speaking simply as a human being, reaching out to other human beings. I am literally on my knees. I beg Iran and all Iranians to spare this woman, and to abolish this horrific practice. Please. Please.

— Danu's Daughter

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