Woman's stoning execution undecided: Iran
Iran's foreign minister says no final decision has been made about a woman who could be stoned to death for adultery, France's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday amid reports her execution is imminent.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a statement he has spoken to his Iranian counterpart about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose case has sparked an international outcry.
Kouchner says Manouchehr Mottaki assured him that a final verdict in Ashtiani's case has not been issued yet and reports "about her eventual execution don't correspond to reality."
Iran has temporarily suspended the stoning verdict and suggested Ashtiani might be hanged instead.
Kouchner said France is "very worried" about the case.
The International Committee against Stoning and International Commitee against Execution said in a statement this week that Iranian authorities had given the go-ahead for Ashtiani's execution, and that it could happen Wednesday. The group would not provide details on where its information came from.
But its report raised alarm in western capitals. The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, was "deeply concerned" by the reports and "demands that Iran halt the execution and convert her sentence," Ashton's office said in a statement.
Ashtiani was first convicted in May 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men after the death of her husband, and a court in Tabriz sentenced her to 99 lashes. Later that year, she was also convicted of adultery, despite having retracted a confession she claims was made under duress.
Ashtiani's case has further elevated tensions between Iran and the West, already running high over suspicions about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen Harper, and Heather Reisman, president of Indigo, issued an open letter to the president of Iran, urging him to release Ashtiani, saying her case is an "affront to any sense of moral or human decency and is symbolic of the plight of Iranian women."
"As mothers, sisters and daughters, we are gravely concerned about the unfair, undue legal processes faced by women in Iran. Repugnant sentences, such as death by stoning, are routinely rendered against women in Iran," they wrote.