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Condemned Iranian woman disputes charges against her

By the CNN Wire Staff
Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani faces death by stoning for allegedly commiting adultery.
Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani faces death by stoning for allegedly commiting adultery.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iranian woman may be executed by stoning
  • Ashtiani says she was cleared in her husband's murder
  • Her attorney claims the murder was not proven
  • Iranian official says Ashtiani guilty of numerous crimes

(CNN) -- A woman facing possible stoning and one of her lawyers argue that Iran is mischaracterizing the status of adultery and murder charges against her.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and attorney Hootan Kian say even though Ashtiani was cleared of her husband's murder five years ago, Iran continues to insist she was found guilty.

"They're lying," Ashtiani told the Guardian newspaper through an intermediary Friday. "They are embarrassed by the international attention on my case and they are desperately trying to distract attention and confuse the media so that they can kill me in secret."

Iran suspended the death by stoning after there was international outcry over the sentence, but may reinstate it in coming days.

"I was found guilty of adultery [in 2006] and was acquitted of murder, but the man who actually killed my husband was identified and imprisoned but he is not sentenced to death," Ashtiani said. She insists Iran wants her stoned because she is a woman.

In a letter written to the International Committee against Stoning and sent Saturday to CNN, Kian argued the Iranian judicial system has mishandled Ashtiani's case.

Video: Iranians protest death sentence
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"If murder was proven, my client would have been executed and there would have been no need to stone her to death," Kian wrote. "Based on Islamic Penal Code, the punishments for murder and adultery should have been combined in one case and sentence and handled by Branch 12 of the Tabriz Province Court. Whereas this was not the case. The branch has no records of sentencing my client to murder."

Last month, Malek Ajdar Sharifi, who is the head of the judiciary of East Azerbaijan province, said Ashtiani's crimes were "numerous" and said she was "convicted of adultery and murder and was sentenced to death," according to the official news agency IRNA.

"Because of morality and ethics, I cannot go into the details of the crimes, but if the public knew, they would understand the criminal nature of them," he said, according to IRNA. "But she killed her husband, brutally and gruesomely, and the detective on the scene said that if she had beheaded her husband it would have been better than what they actually saw."

Ashtiani, 43, a mother of two, is being held in a Tabriz prison. Iran's judiciary could reinstate her sentence of death by stoning, execute her by other means, or possibly even grant her a reprieve, according to human rights groups.

Mina Ahadi, spokeswoman for the International Committee against Stoning, said if Ashtiani is executed, "it is entirely political. It has nothing to do with the case itself."

"Now that Iran is under this international pressure, they have brought the case up that convicts her of the murder of her husband," Ahadi said Saturday.

Kian's letter said the man actually convicted in the death of Ashtiani's husband, "admitted in the branch that he administered the electrifying of Mr. [Ebrahim] Ghaderzadeh himself with his own hands three times and each time the deceased received electrical shock."

The lawyer also challenged the adultery conviction.

"It completely violated the spirit of the laws of the Islamic Republic," Kian writes.

Ashtiani's other lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, is being protected by European diplomats after he fled to Turkey from Iran.

Mostafaei claims Iranian authorities tried to arrest him without cause.

CNN's Mitra Mobasherat contributed to this report.