An Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for allegedly committing adultery has reportedly appeared on state television to “confess” her crime.
In an interview broadcast Wednesday night, a woman identified as Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani admitted to conspiring to murder her husband with the man’s cousin, with whom she had been having an affair.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting channel blurred the woman’s face and dubbed her words from Azeri Turkish into Persian, so it was impossible to tell if the woman was actually Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, or what condition she was in.
But Houtan Kian, a lawyer currently representing Ashtiani in Iran, told the Guardian newspaperthat she was “severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera”.
Kian said he feared that the judiciary would now act quickly to carry out Ashtiani’s death sentence.
Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Tehran, said that a source close to Iran’s judiciary said that Ashtiani will “probably not be executed during Ramadan” – which lasts until September 9 – and that there is a “small possibility” her execution will be revoked.
But her case must still be heard by the country’s supreme court, our reporter noted.
Amnesty International, which has protested against Ashtiani’s impending stoning, said the broadcast“shows nothing more than the lack of evidence” against her, while the International Committee Against Stoning called the interview “toxic propaganda”.
According to the Reuters news agency, Ashtiani offered details about how she and her husband’s cousin conspired.
“He told me: ‘Let’s kill your husband’. I totally could not believe that my husband would be killed. I thought he was joking”, Ashtiani said. “Later, I found out that killing was his profession.”
She continued: “He came [to our house] and brought all the stuff. He brought electrical devices, plus wire and gloves. Later, he killed my husband by connecting him to the electricity”.
Ashtiani’s previous lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaie, fled Iran this month after Iranian officials issued an arrest warrant for him. He is currently in Norway, while his wife remains in Iran and has been detained.
Ashtiani criticised Mostafaie in the broadcast.
“Why did you publicise my case? Why did you harm my reputation and dignity? Not all of my relatives and family members knew that I am in prison. Why did you do this to me?” she said.
Hassiba Hadj Sahroui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement that the broadcast calls into question the independence of Iran’s judiciary.
“If the judiciary in Iran is to be taken seriously, this ‘confession’ needs to be disregarded and assurances given that it will not affect the review of her case”, she said.
The purported confession comes after Ashtiani’s death sentence – imposed four years ago – was suspended last month, pending a judicial review.
Ashtiani’s children, along with human rights groups including Avaaz, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have voiced outrageover the stoning, and Brazil said it would give Ashtiani asylum– an offer that Iran turned down.
Ashtiani’s case has affected Iran’s already turbulent international relations.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has said the United States is “troubled” by it,and Iran’s rejection of Brazil’s asylum offer may have played a rolein Brazil’s decision to sign a decree supporting United Nations sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Ashtiani’s case dates back to 2006, when she was given 99 lashes after pleading guilty to the crime of having an “illicit relationship” with two men.
An inquiry into whether Ashtiani had in fact committed “adultery while married” was opened later that year, as the government pursued the prosecution of one of the two men for allegedly also being involved in Ashtiani’s husband’s murder.