Conservatives slam judge who condemned Ashtiani

Iranian newspaper Alef says Sakineh Ashtiani ought not to have been sentenced to stoning

BY Eliot Sefton LAST UPDATED AT 15:16 ON Mon 8 Nov 2010

The sentence of death by stoning handed down to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for adultery has been criticised by a conservative Iranian newspaper in the first sign of support for the woman's plight from the country's establishment.

Alef, a newspaper owned by former minister Ahmad Tavakkoli, also criticised Tehran's handling of the international outcry against Ashtiani's sentence. Tavakkoli is a cousin of Ali Larijani, who himself is the chairman of the Iranian parliament and a former representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to the Times, the article, headlined 'The Gap Between the Legal Procedures and Sharia', attacks the judge in Ashtiani's trial, accusing him of failing to ensure there were four witnesses or allowing for forgiveness – both of which are called for under Sharia law.

The piece, written by a cleric, Hojatoleslam Jalil Mohebby, also takes the Iranian government to task for its handling of the international outcry surrounding Ashtiani's treatment: "The story was blown up by the Americans, the British and the Zionists. But what did we do? Nothing!"

The Iranian media has in general been muted on the subject of Ashtiani's stoning sentence. Her case is still under review – although her supporters believe Tehran is attempting to frame her for the murder of her husband so she can be hanged rather than stoned. · 

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