(AFP) – Nov 22, 2010
TEHRAN — There is a "good chance" that the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery could be spared, the head of Iran's High Human Rights Council said in an interview aired on Monday.
"Our judiciary made a lot of efforts (in reviewing the case) and we think there is a good chance her life could be saved," Mohammed Javad Larijani told Iran's English-language Press TV.
Larijani, who was speaking in English, did not give details of the judiciary's review of the Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani case or the basis of his optimism that her life would be spared.
His council works under the judiciary's auspices.
The sentence handed down against Mohammadi-Ashtiani sparked international outrage and diplomatic intervention by several Western governments as well as the Vatican.
In July, Tehran said that the sentence to death by stoning had been stayed pending a full review of her case.
Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was initially given death sentences by two different courts in the northwestern city of Tabriz in separate trials in 2006.
A sentence to hang for her involvement in the murder of her husband was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.
But a second sentence, to death by stoning on charges of adultery levelled over several relationships, notably with the man convicted of her husband's murder, was upheld by another appeals court the same year.
Larijani insisted Iran had never prevented Sakineh's lawyers from meeting with her but cautioned that legal representatives are not above the law.
"Anyone who conducts illegal activities must be held accountable before the law," he said, whether he is "a defender of human rights, a lawyer or a carpenter."
Sakineh's current lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian, was arrested in the northwestern city of Tabriz in September along with two Germans who were conducting an interview with her son.
The two Germans, who entered Iran on tourist visas, are accused of spying.
According to prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, Houtan Kian's possible links with "anti-revolutionary groups based abroad" are being investigated.
Without naming him, Larijani also criticised Sakineh's first lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, for having "preferred to give interviews to foreigners" rather than defend his client.
Mostafaie gave a number of interviews with European media outlets after he fled Iran in July and sought refuge in Norway after Tehran issued an arrest warrant against him.
Rejecting the international outcry over the death sentence imposed on Mohammadi-Ashtiani, Larijani drew parallels between her case and that of Teresa Lewis, a 41-year-old American grandmother who was executed in the United States in late September for murder.
He said the two cases were "exactly the same" and that the West did not have the right to condemn the decision of Iran's judiciary.
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