Source: Amnesty International
As many as eight woman are at imminent risk of being stoned to death for adultery in Iran, according to reports received by Amnesty International. The organisation is today (9 March) calling on the Iranian authorities to commute the sentences and to impose an immediate moratorium on stonings. Amnesty is urging people to support its campaign at www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty
Ultimately Iran should abolish death by stoning completely and should stop executing people for the crime of adultery, said Amnesty. Serious failings in the Iranian justice system, which disproportionately affect women, commonly result in unfair trials in capital and other cases.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
'Stoning people to death is an inhumane punishment, specifically designed to increase the suffering of the victim. The Iranian authorities should abolish stoning immediately, and should abandon the practice of executing people for committing adultery.
'Women are not treated equally in Iran, in the home and in the courts, and this means that they are particularly at risk.
"Women and men inside Iran are fighting for an end to this horrendous practice and in some cases they have met with success. But we must show them international support.'
Ashraf Kalhori was scheduled to be stoned to death for adultery with her neighbour - a charge she now denies - in July 2006 but her execution was stayed. She was also sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for taking part in her husband's murder. Iranian media are now reporting that the Amnesty and Clemency Commission has rejected her plea and that her sentence could now be implemented at any time.
Another woman, known as Iran, is also at risk of execution by stoning. She was attacked by her husband when he saw her talking to the son of a neighbour, and while she was unconscious the neighbour's son killed her husband. Iran initially confessed to adultery during police interrogation, but later retracted her confession.
A court in Khuzestan province sentenced Iran to five years' imprisonment for complicity in her husband's murder, and to death by stoning for adultery. The stoning sentence was overturned in June 2007 and she was retried, but was again sentenced to stoning. Her case has been before the Amnesty and Clemency Commission for over a year. She is held in Sepidar prison, in Ahvaz city.
Anti-stoning campaigners in Iran have also highlighted the case of Khayrieh, who was sentenced to death in Khuzestan for complicity in the murder of her husband, and death by stoning for adultery. A relative of her husband, with whom she had an affair, murdered Khayrieh's husband, who was subjecting her to domestic violence. Khayrieh has denied any involvement in her husband's murder, but has acknowledged adultery and so is at risk of execution by stoning. She is believed to be held in Sepidar Prison.
A woman known as Afsaneh R, from Shiraz in southern Iran, was also sentenced to stoning for adultery as well as to qesas ('retribution') for the murder of her husband, by a court in Fars, southern Iran, on 9 April 2008. This was confirmed by the Supreme Court on 4 August 2008, the same day on which Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi restated that executions by stoning in Iran were suspended.
Four other cases have also recently been discovered by anti-stoning campaigners in Iran. A woman known only as "H", and another identified only as "M.Kh" are both said to be held in Vakilabad Prison, Mashhad, north-eastern Iran, under sentence of stoning. An unnamed man and woman are also believed to be held under sentence of stoning in Tabriz Prison. Amnesty International does not have full details of their cases, but fears that they could be executed at any time. Another woman and a man, Gilan Mohammadi and Gholamali Eskandari are also at risk of stoning, although Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said on 27 January that their cases were being reviewed.
Iran's Penal Code prescribes execution by stoning. It even dictates that the stones are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately. Article 102 of the Penal Code states that men should be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should "not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones".
The majority of those sentenced to death by stoning are women, who suffer disproportionately from such punishment. One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. The age of criminal responsiblity for women is lower than that for men and a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man. They are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because in Iran they are more likely than men to be illiterate and more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit. Discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible to conviction for adultery, said Amnesty.
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