Opposition towards Ashtiani’s execution is no conspiracy

In an attempt to demonstrate western hypocrisy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – President of Iran – has spoken out at the lack of uproar levelled against the US and the execution of Teresa Lewis, the women convicted of plotting to kill her husband, Julian Lewis, and her stepson, Charles Lewis.

This tactic by the Iranian premier is designed to deflect criticism over Iran’s decision to prosecute Mohamedi Sakineh Ashtiani.

Reports in the BBC say no final decision on Ashtiani’s fate has been made, though some media outlets such as Mehr, a semi-official Tehran news agency, are reporting the judiciary in Iran as having convicted her of murdering her husband which carries the penalty of execution by hanging.

However reports from Isna suggest she has been given a 10-year prison sentence for complicity in her husband’s death.  

During his UN speech, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying Ashtiani would not be sentenced to stoning, something he vowed to oversee in an interview with former UK Member of Parliament George Galloway recently.

But there had been no willing by Ahmadinejad to allow Ashtiani the opportunity to emigrate to Brazil or Turkey, where both President Lula and President Erdogan were willing to assist.

The charge levelled at Ahmadinejad that he has done far too little still holds. His office was quiet when it was revealed Mohammad Mostafaei, the lawyer of Ashtiani and human rights expert, fled the country after an arrest warrant had been issued against him.

Nor did the President appear to show any public distress when authorities arrested Mostafaei’s wife and brother-in-law, ransacked his office and carried out interrogation methods.

Today a media lens message board post discussed the case of Ashtiani. Some posters echoed the sentiments of Ahmadinejad saying this is only one case among many, and questioning why the same level of outcry had been absent in other cases; exemplifying the case of Al-Janabi, the 14 year old girl who was gang raped, killed and set on fire by U.S. troops in Mahmudiya, Iraq, in 2006.

Oliver Kamm, the Times leader writer and columnist, called the comments “Sub-Chomskyite” on his twitter feed.

There is no Western-designed plot to single out Iran, and even if there was, the most effective campaigns to save Ashtiani’s life have come through grassroots activism such as from Avaaz and the International Committee Against Stoningby no means front organisations for imperialism, or groups whose interest it is to engage in armed conflict with Iran in the future.

The excuse being spun by Ahmadinejad that Iran is being treated unfairly is down to the extreme measures with which they choose to condemn innocent people such as Ashtiani. Even under Islamic law – professed to be the mode practiced in Iranadultery cannot be satisfactorily proven before the perpetrator has confessed under free conditions on three separate occasions, or if four males, whom the court are happy to trust, actually witness the act of penetration.

It seems very unlikely that Ashtiani confessed to her husband’s murder under free conditions. Amnesty International, in August, reported that:

televised “confessions” have repeatedly been used by the Iranian authorities to incriminate individuals in custody. Many have later retracted these “confessions”, stating that they were coerced to make them, sometimes under torture or other ill-treatment.

The case of Ashtiani is a reminder of the suspect justice system operating in Iran. It is a foolish position to take, thinking opposition towards her execution is somehow a justification of similar methods used in the US; in fact hostility towards state sanctioned murder ought to be levelled against any country operating it.

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A day of protest

In the Islamic Republic of Iran 150 people have been put to death by stoning in the last 31 years, according to Farshad Hosseini. Yesterday, a cohort of activists set up a stall in Trafalgar Square to protest the decision to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani at the hands of the Iranian judiciary – and to show their opposition to stonings full stop.

Stoning is not only inhumane, but is apparently disapporived of OFFICIALLY in Iran. Before his death in 2006, the then Minister of Justice and spokesman for the Judiciary, Mr. Jamal Karimi-Rad, became the first Iranian judicial authority to comment in reaction to the Stop Stoning Forever campaign – formed of various women’s rights organisations to see stoning as a form of punishment for adultery in Iran abolished. He denied that stoning took place in Iran, brushing aside examples where judge’s have sentenced it, often with little in the way of evidence.

Mr Jamal Karimi-Rad’s comments did demonstrate then an official disapproval of stoning, however flimsy it was, consistent with the ban on stoning ordered by the Head of Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, in December 2002.

It beggars belief. The thing that could knock some sense into Ahmadinejad’s regime in Iran is that the execution case is making Iran look bad – not that justice is being perverted in such a foul way. But, of course, for Ashtiani’s family, this reason is better than none.