Human rights campaigners have condemned the announcement of an Iranian television program showing Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning, at her home apparently discussing her part in the murder of her husband.
The release of photographs of Mohammadi Ashtiani at her home in Osku prompted speculation that she had been freed. However, hopes for her release were dashed when Iran’s state English-language channel said she had been taken home to make a television program on her alleged crime.
In a report on its Web site, Press TV said Mohammadi Ashtiani had accompanied a film crew to her house “to recount details of killing of her husband at the crime scene.”
Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini, and Maureen Harper, the wife of the Canadian prime minister, were among those who had welcomed the unconfirmed reports of Mohammadi Ashtiani’s release.
However, Press TV said this morning the visit was part of a program to be broadcast on Friday night.
The channel said: “Contrary to a vast publicity campaign by western media that confessed murderer Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been released, a team of broadcast production team with the Iran-based Press TV has arranged with Iran’s judicial authorities to follow Ashtiani to her house to produce a visual recount of the crime at the murder scene.”
Mohammadi Ashtiani has appeared on state TV three times, but activists say her apparent confessions had been coerced.
Clare Bracey of Amnesty said: “International standards for fair trial, to which Iran is a state party, guarantee the right not to be forced to incriminate oneself or to confess guilt. The judiciary is in charge of this case and would have to have given permission for such an interview to take place. To organize a televised ‘confession’ mid-way through a judicial review of a serious case — where a woman’s life hangs in the balance — makes a mockery of Iran’s legal system.”
She added: “That judicial review [for Mohammadi Ashtiani] is further hampered by the fact that Sakineh’s son and lawyer have been detained. If Sajad Qaderzadeh and Javid Houtan Kian are being held solely for peacefully highlighting Sakineh’s case, they should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Mohammadi Ashtiani’s son, Sajad, was arrested in October along with her lawyer Houtan Kian and two German journalists who were detained after trying to interview her family.
Mina Ahadi of the International Committee against Stoning (ICAS) also condemned the program, saying: “Press TV is acting as if it is the intelligence service of Iran, it has forced a woman to confess against herself on TV.”
Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in May 2006 of conducting an illicit relationship outside marriage. She was given a sentence of 99 lashes, but her case was reopened when a court in Tabriz suspected her of murdering her husband. She was acquitted, but the adultery charge was reviewed and a death penalty handed down on the basis of “judge’s knowledge” — a process that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present.
Embarrassed by international condemnation of the -stoning -sentence, Iran has tried to distract attention from Mohammadi Ashtiani’s initial charge of adultery by introducing new charges against her and portraying her as a murderer who killed her husband.