Iranian Lawyer Representing Stoning Case Woman Flees To Turkey
Mohammad Mostafaei in a 2009 courtesy photo
The lawyer of an Iranian woman sentenced to death
by stoning for adultery has fled to Turkey and has requested asylum there.
But on arrival at his office later that same day, he
says he was told that people had already been there to arrest him. Later he
received word that his wife Fereshteh and her brother had been arrested, and he
resolved then never to surrender voluntarily to the authorities.
The lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, a well-known human rights activist, has been
representing Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two sentenced
by an Iranian judge to death by stoning after she was found guilty of adultery.
In his first
interview since fleeing
Iran, Mostafaei told RFE/RL that he was summoned to Tehran's Evin prison on July
24 for questioning by public prosecutor Shahid Moghdas. The questions about his
legal activities focused on why he helps juvenile offenders who have been
sentenced to death, and why he offers his services as a lawyer free in certain
cases. The questioning in these intimidating surroundings lasted three hours,
after which Mostafaei was told he could go.
"After several days [officials] made it clear that they were holding my wife and
[her brother] as hostages and that, until I gave myself up, they wouldn't let
them go," Mostafaei said. "I decided to leave Iran, and since I knew that I
would be prevented from doing so, I crossed the border into Turkey and made it
to the city of Van."
After arrival he contacted a human rights group, and was taken to Istanbul,
where he has applied for asylum.
Asked if he believes the authorities had tried to punish him for representing
Ashtiani, he said he had a right and a duty to defend her.
"It was my duty to save the life of Sakineh Mohammadi," Mostafaei said, "And
because the judiciary didn't help save her from being stoned, I made her cry of
help to be heard by the world so that the judiciary would come under pressure
and she would escape stoning."
Her case has become an international cause celebre because of the barbarity of
the sentence of death by stoning. To the acute embarrassment of the Iranian
political and judicial authorities, her case is receiving publicity around the
world. Last month the authorities suspended the stoning, but said the death
sentence against her still stands.
Brazil's president has even taken up the case. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has
offered to give asylum to the woman in Brazil. However, an Iranian Foreign
Ministry spokesman said this week Tehran has rejected that offer. He said the
president would understand why once he was in possession of the full facts of
Meanwhile, lawyer Mostafaei is denouncing the arrest of his wife, who is
believed still held.
"I truly didn't believe that there would be people in Iran's judiciary who know
nothing about humanity," Mostafaei said. "I never thought that there would be so
much lawlessness in our judiciary. I never thought that they would keep my wife
in jail close to two weeks over a sin she hasn't committed. She didn't have
anything to do with my work."
He also expressed worry about the fate of a number of child offenders he was
representing, some of whom were threatened with the death penalty.
written by Breffni O'Rourke based on reporting by Golnaz Esfandiari and
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