Tehran, Iran — The lawyer for an Iranian widow sentenced to be stoned to death for an adultery conviction expressed cautious optimism Saturday after Iran said it will review the decision, which has drawn international condemnation.
Human rights activists and other officials, however, warned that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, could still be hanged.
The outcry over the death sentence is the latest thorn in Iran’s relationship with the international community, with the United States, Britain and international human rights groups urging Tehran to stay the execution.
Stoning was widely imposed in the years following the 1979 Islamic revolution, and even though Iran’s judiciary still regularly hands down such sentences, they are often converted to other punishments. The last known stoning was carried out in 2007, although the government rarely confirms that such punishments have been meted out.
British media reported late Thursday that the stoning would not occur, citing the Iranian embassy in London.
Mohammed Javad Larijani of Iran’s human rights council told the state news agency late Friday that the “review and appeal of the verdict is on the agenda,” though he maintained it was not due to outside pressure.
“The hue and cry that the West has launched over this case will not affect our judges,” he said. “The implementation of Islamic regulations like stoning and the headscarf have always been faced with their impudently hostility and opposition.”
He added that converting sentences of stoning to alternative punishments has been common over the past years.
Ashtiani’s lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, said he was optimistic the review would bring an end to his client’s suffering after years of living “with the nightmare of death by stoning.”
Amnesty International, however, warned Ashtiani should not be executed by some other method, noting that three people sentenced to stoning last year were instead hanged.