Ashtiani tortured before TV murder ‘confession’

Iranian exiles protest in Berlin against the stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

Iranian woman sentenced to stoning for adultery admits to murder of her husband

BY Tim Edwards LAST UPDATED AT 13:05 ON Thu 12 Aug 2010

A lawyer for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman at the centre of an international row over her sentence of stoning for committing adultery, says she was tortured for two days before her 'confession' was recorded for state television.

Houtan Kian told the Guardian: "She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera. Her 22-year-old son, Sajad, and her 17-year-old daughter, Saeedeh, are completely traumatised by watching this programme."

Ashtiani, 43, appeared on TV last night to give her pre-recorded confession. She said she had been an accomplice to the murder of her husband and had conducted an extra-marital affair with her husband's cousin. Analysts see the fact that Ashtiani criticised the Western media for interfering in her personal life as evidence that the confession was a sham.

Ashtiani's ordeal began in 2006 when, despite being a widow following the death of her husband, she was found guilty of an "illicit relationship" with two men. She was sentenced to 99 lashes. (Like Bibi Sanubar, the woman flogged and then shot by the Taliban iun Afghanistan last week, she is considered an adulteress even though her husband is dead.)

Later that year, while one of the two men was being tried for the murder of Ashtiani's husband, she was convicted of adultery while still being married and sentenced to death by stoning. She confessed to the crime, but later retracted the admission, saying it was made under duress and she was confused because her native tongue is Azeri and not Farsi, Iran's official language.

Details of the case are sketchy, but some Iranian officials claim Ashtiani was found guilty of her husband's murder - although the prisoner herself said in a statement published in the Guardian last
week: "I was found guilty of adultery and was acquitted of murder."
 
In any case, Ashtiani's son pardoned all parties to his father's murder, but Iran's supreme court confirmed her death sentence in 2007. Ashtiani has languished on death row ever since.

A campaign by her two children finally brought Ashtiani's case to international attention this year, and embarrassed Iranian authorities commuted the sentence of stoning to hanging.

By televising Ashtiani's confession last night, Iran appears to have decided to grab the bull by the horns and it is feared she may be hanged swiftly to bring an end to an affair that has shown up the country's legal system.

Amnesty International told the Guardian "Iran is inventing crimes", adding the "so-called" confession "makes a complete mockery of the judiciary system in Iran." · 

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