Brazil Offers Haven To Iranian Woman Facing Stoning Sentence
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
(center) with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (right) and Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad in May 2010.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has offered refuge to an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of adultery.
Speaking in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba , Lula said he was prepared
to use his "friendship" with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad of Iran to offer
asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose case has provoked an international
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
"With my friendship and the consideration I have for the president of Iran and
the Iranian people, if this woman is causing problems there, we would be glad to
welcome her in Brazil," Lula told a gathering of Brazil's Workers' Party, where
he was campaigning in support of Dilma Rousseff, a candidate in October's
Ashtiani, 43, has already been flogged 99 times after being found guilty of
adultery. The case was later reopened after a court in Tabriz suspected her of
murdering her husband.
Despite being acquitted, the adultery charge was reviewed and a stoning sentence
imposed based on the "judge's knowledge."
Brazil Tries Soft Power
Lula's intervention is the latest twist in a saga that has seen the Iranian
authorities respond to international pressure by first postponing Ashtiani's
sentence and then commuting it to hanging.
It also represents a change of heart by the Brazilian leader, who has fostered a
warm relationship with Iran.
He initially responded to an online appeal in Brazil asking him to intervene by
saying last week he could not ask other leaders to disregard their own
His latest move follows demands by the United States, European Union, and
international human rights groups for Ashtiani to be given a stay of execution.
The Brazilian president has developed warm personal ties with Ahmadinejad. In
May he helped broker a deal aimed at resolving the impasse over Iran's disputed
The agreement would have seen Iran ship low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return
for higher-enriched fuel to be used in a medical research reactor.
It was rejected by the United States and failed to prevent a fourth round of
sanctions being imposed on Tehran by the United Nations Security Council.
Pressure On Ashtiani, Lawyer
Iran has already denounced the international
campaign to save Ashtiani, with state television linking her supporters to the
"West and Israel" and accusing them of demanding the release of a convicted
lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, has also come under pressure.
Ashtiani's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, has also disappeared after the
a warrant for his arrest and detained his wife and brother-in-law.
Mostafaei has previously described Ashtiani's conviction as unjust and has
played a key role in bring the case to international attention. He is also
believed to have encouraged Ashtiani's two children to campaign to save their
"Some judges hesitate to give such harsh sentences considering the fact that
proving such a crime is hardly possible," Mostafaei said.
"It may be that such a sentence is given by looking at the case from a
prejudiced perspective or from an angle of the social environment they work in."
On July 29, human rights activists in London released a letter they said was
written by Ashtiani in which she said: "The day I was given the stoning
sentence, it was as if I fell into a deep hole and I lost consciousness.... I'm
afraid of dying. Help me stay alive and hug my children."
compiled from agency reports
Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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