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Iranian woman has not been executed, official says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Iran to carry out death by stoning?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is in "full health" and her case is being processed, IRNA reports
  • She was scheduled to die by stoning
  • Authorities gave the go-ahead for her execution this week
  • French Foreign Ministry says execution has not happened

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- A woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery has not been executed, Iran's official news agency reported Wednesday, rejecting "Western media" reports that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani had been executed.

"She is currently enjoying full health and is at the Tabriz Prison," the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the head of the judiciary in the province as saying.

"Her case is being processed by the relevant judicial authorities of the province and is going through the due process," Hojatoleslam Malek Azhdar Sharif said.

Her sentence of death by stoning drew worldwide outrage earlier this year.

Authorities in Iran were reported to have given the go-ahead this week to execute Ashtiani as soon as Wednesday, although the method of killing her was not clear.

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French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday that he had spoken to his Iranian counterpart to urge Iran not to execute her.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki assured him "that a verdict in the case concerning Sakineh Ashtiani had not been reached by the Iranian legal authorities and that the information on her alleged execution did not correspond to reality," Kouchner said.

Human rights groups and various governments have also urged Iran not to execute Ashtiani.

Wednesday, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton demanded that Iran stop the execution from going ahead and convert her sentence, a spokesman said in a statement.

British Foreign Minister William Hague called the proposed stoning a "barbaric punishment."

"I think it will damage Iran in the eyes of the world," Hague told reporters. "It will be much better not to proceed with it. I think many people across the world are outraged by the punishment and the prospect of it being carried out, and I would urge them even now to desist from it."

Iran said Wednesday the global reaction is just a way to pressure its government.

"They have become so shameless regarding the subject of human rights that they have turned the case of Sakineh Ashtiani, who has committed murder and betrayal, into a human rights issue and are using it against our nation," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told the ISNA news agency.

"This case has been turned into a symbol of seeking freedom for women in the West and they are shamelessly demanding her freedom. They are, therefore, trying to turn an ordinary (court) case into a lever to pressure our nation."

Ashtiani initially was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The Iranian government later said she was also convicted of murdering her husband, but her lawyer and family dispute that.

Ashtiani, 43 and a mother of two, drew international attention when she was sentenced to death by stoning. She concedes that she was convicted of adultery, as initially reported, but says she was acquitted of murder. "The man who actually killed my husband was identified and imprisoned, but he is not sentenced to death," she said in August.

The Iranian government's claims that she was convicted of murder are a lie, she told The Guardian newspaper through an intermediary. "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."

Ashtiani's son and her attorney are still in jail after being arrested last month, said Mina Ahadi, a spokeswoman for the International Committee Against Stoning. Also still detained are two German journalists who tried to interview them.

Before his arrest, Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, said court officials stole documents and files pertaining to the murder of his father in order to "promote his mother as a murderer."

Ahadi also said the Iranian regime "fabricated" the murder charges.

In August, Ashtiani appeared on state TV confessing that she knew about a plot to kill her husband but felt she had been misled. Amnesty International condemned the interview.

Ghaderzadeh and attorney Hootan Kian will not be issued a lawyer, because the government claims they do not need one, according to Ahadi.

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

Mostafaei claims that Iranian authorities tried to arrest him without cause.

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr in Tehran, Iran, and Saskya Vandoorne in Paris, France, contributed to this report.

 
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