Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's son has told an Italian news agency he was appealing to Pope Benedict XVI and to Italy to try to stop his mother's execution. ((Amnesty International/Associated Press))

The stoning death sentence passed against an Iranian woman convicted of adultery has been suspended and is under review, Iran's English-language television station reported Wednesday.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men after the murder of her husband the year before and was sentenced at that time to 99 lashes.

Later that year, she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned, even though she retracted a confession she says was made under duress.

Ashtiani is also facing charges related to her husband's death, Reuters reported.

"The sentencing of Ms. Ashtiani for adultery has been stopped and [her case] is being reviewed again, and her sentencing for complicity in murder is in process," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

He said the murder charge was being investigated "for the final verdict to be issued," according to a Reuters report.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Ali Akbar Naseri, Iran's envoy to the Vatican, told Italian state TV in an interview broadcast Wednesday night that Ashtiani's case was under study by experts.

He said Islamic law "is inspired by clemency and forgiveness." Asked if that meant Ashtiani might receive clemency, the envoy replied that "some mitigation of the punishment is possible." He didn't elaborate.

On Sunday, the Vatican had raised the possibility of using its diplomatic channels on humanitarian grounds in the case but stopped short of saying such efforts had begun.

Canadian making an effort

In Canada, Indigo Books chief executive officer Heather Reisman is spearheading an online petition aimed at religious clerics in Iran and pushing for the release of Ashtiani.

"This is a woman who has been in jail for four years under harsh conditions, who received an initial 99 lashes, and has now received a second 99 lashes," she said.

"We are going to ask people to sign a letter that will go to these clerics, asking them to revisit all these elements and hoping that, given their expertise, they too will see these issues and ask that these new charges be withdrawn, and that the death sentence be withdrawn."

Reisman's online campaign has already generated more than 300,000 signatures.

On Tuesday, the European Union condemned the stoning death sentence passed against an Iranian woman convicted of adultery, calling it "barbaric."

Mehmanparast told Press TV that the case should "not be turned into a human rights matter."

With files from The Associated Press