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Woman convicted of adultery, murder appears on Iranian TV

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Outrage over Iran 'confession'
  • Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani confesses to her part in the death of her husband
  • Iranian authorities have brought her before TV camera to confess in the past
  • Her sentence to die by stoning has drawn sharp international criticism
  • Human rights official: Program is attempt to convince the world Ashtiani is guilty

(CNN) -- A woman convicted of murder and adultery and sentenced to die by stoning confesses to her part in the plot to kill her husband on an Iranian television program aired Friday night.

But the family of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has steadfastly denied that she played any role in her husband's death -- and a human rights organization that is trying to help Ashtiani called the program "a theatrical melodrama."

"There was a complete disregard for due process, bringing her out and making her a part of this theatrical melodrama is an attempt to try to convince the international public opinion that she is guilty," said Hadi Ghaemi, director of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Iran has drawn sharp criticism from the international community after Ashtiani's 2010 sentence to death by stoning. Officials ranging from Pope Benedict XVI to the European Union's top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton, urged Iran not to carry out the sentence.

"Since the international outcry, the Iranian government is tap-dancing, trying to justify executing her," said Ghaemi.

Press TV, Iran's government-backed English language station, aired the half-hour special on "Iran Today." The program included interviews with -- among others -- Ashtiani and her son.

The program brought Ashtiani back to her home in Osku "to produce a visual account" of the death of her husband "at the crime scene."

"This is highly unusual because according to Iranian authorities this is a woman who is in prison convicted of adultery and murder and now she has apparently been plucked out of her jail cell and featured in this documentary," said CNN's Reza Sayah

"This was a program designed to promote the government's position," said Sayah.

This is not the first time Ashtiani has been brought out in front of cameras for an alleged confession.

The program also condemns the public campaign to free her.

"It was a very disturbing piece, it was the Iranian government turning a judicial case into a public relations case," said Ghaemi.

Press TV's release of still photographs of Ashtiani and her son from the interview, which took place on Sunday, fueled some speculation that they had been released, but there was no evidence or confirmation to support that conjecture.

Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006. She also received a 10 year prison sentence for her alleged cooperation in the plot to kill her husband.

"The key point here is not just about Ashtiani, but about abolishing stoning in Iran. That is what the Iranian government is trying to diverge attention from. They don't want to talk about abolishing stoning or Iran's human rights record," said Ghaemi.

Two German journalists who interviewed Ashtiani were arrested in October and charged with espionage. Ashtiani's son and lawyer also were arrested, but it was not clear on what charges.