After recent reports that the Iranian regime was about to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Azeri-Iranian woman whose stoning sentence for adultery was suspended after an international outcry earlier this year, many are again expressing their outrage and horror.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said stoning was a "barbaric" practice and that executing Ms. Ashtiani "would damage Iran in the eyes of the world." The Spouse of the Prime Minister of Canada Laureen Harper, called her case "an affront to any sense of moral or human decency."
In a statement posted on the foreign ministry's web site, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he had called Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, to express his "dismay" at the possibility that Iran was moving forward with Ms. Ashtiani's execution. Mr. Mottaki claimed that the reports were untrue, and that Iranian authorities had not yet reached a final verdict in her case.
That case has been remarkable not only for the barbarity of the stoning sentence, but also for the flagrant disregard for the rule of law displayed by Iran's authorities. Ms. Ashtiani does not speak Farsi and did not understand the proceedings against her from the beginning; after being convicted of adultery in 2006, she endured 99 lashes in front of her teenage son; later the case was reopened and she was charged with murder. Subsequently, she retracted a so-called confession she had made because she made it under duress; her original lawyer was forced to flee Iran after he helped Ms. Ashtiani's children bring international attention to her plight. Her son and her current lawyer were recently arrested.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed deep concern over reports that Iranian authorities may be finalizing plans to execute Ms. Ashtiani. "Iran's leaders have failed once again to protect the fundamental rights of their own citizens, particularly women," she wrote in a statement. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs condemned "in the strongest possible terms the Government of Iran's apparent plan to move forward in executing" Ms. Ashtiani. Mr. Gibbs called the lack of transparency and due process in Ms. Ashtiani's case, and the subsequent actions taken against her lawyer and family "unacceptable." Her case, he wrote in a statement, "demonstrates the Government of Iran's fundamental disregard for human rights, including those of women. We call on the Government of Iran," said Mr. Gibbs, "to stop this execution and provide Ms. Ashtiani with the due process and fair treatment she deserves."