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Iranian official: Woman sentenced to death by stoning could be spared

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Larijani: "There is a good chance her life could be saved"
  • Iranian human rights chief compares case with that of executed American woman
  • Western officials have condemned Sakineh Ahstiani's sentence

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- An Iranian woman whose death sentence has sparked an outcry outside Iran may yet be spared, the Islamic Republic's chief human rights official said Monday, according to the state-run Press TV.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006 and sentenced to death by stoning. The Iranian government also said Ashtiani was involved in her husband's murder, a charge her family has denied.

"Iran's Council of Human Rights has helped a lot to reduce her sentence, and we think there is a good chance that her life could be saved," said Mohammed Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights.'

Human rights groups and various governments have also urged Iran not to execute Ashtiani. Earlier this month, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton demanded that Iran stop the execution from going ahead and convert her sentence, and British Foreign Minister William Hague called the proposed stoning a "barbaric punishment."

Ahstiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, has said that while she was convicted of adultery, she was acquitted of murder and that the man who killed her husband has been imprisoned.

Speaking to Press TV, Larijani compared Ashtiani's case to that of Teresa Lewis, an American woman executed in September for using sex and money to arrange for the killings of her husband and stepson. The case of Lewis, who was the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly a century, attracted considerable debate, particularly over her mental capacities.

Lewis pleaded for her life, saying she was sorry for what she had done and would "take it back in a minute" if she could. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell denied the plea, as did the U.S. Supreme Court.

"In the U.S., a woman killed her husband, with the aid of her ex-lover, and even though she was suffering from mental disorder, she was sentenced to the capital punishment and was executed," Larijani told Press TV.

"Nothing is said about the American woman, but there are lots of criticism regarding our judicial system," he said. The dichotomy shows "how biased, unrealistic and hypocritical and malicious" the western media has been regarding the Iranian case.