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Iranian officials: Woman may be hanged instead of stoned

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:45 PM EST, Mon December 26, 2011
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006.
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sakineh Ashtiani's case has drawn international attention
  • Officials lack the proper facility for stoning, a judiciary chief told Iranian media
  • The current judiciary head is consulting with Islamic scholars on whether she will be hanged

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- A woman sentenced to die by stoning will be executed, Iranian officials said Monday, but the method of execution is still being debated, according to an Iranian media report.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's case drew international attention after she was sentenced to die by stoning for adultery.

"This lady is accused of two crimes," Hojatoleslam Sharifi, the judiciary chief of Eastern Azarbaijan province, said at a news conference Monday, the semi-official Iran Student's News Agency reported. "One is adultery, which is punishable by stoning to death, and the other is assisting in her husband's murder. She is currently serving 10 years for helping to kill her husband."

He said "we did not have the needed facility for stoning," so officials asked the then-head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, for advice, Sharifi said. "He was too busy at the time, and this issue was left for his successor to handle."

The current judiciary head, Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, "is of the opinion that since the objective is execution, and since stoning is not practical, the execution should be done by hanging," he said. "However, (Larijiani) has decided to wait for now and discuss the issue with other Islamic scholars until a clear and accurate decision is reached."

Officials have decided to await Larijani's decision. Since Ashtiani is currently serving time, "we agreed there is no hurry," Sharifi said.

"What I can tell you now is that we are waiting to see if someone who has been sentenced to be executed by stoning could be executed by hanging instead."

Ashtiani, a mother of two, will be executed as soon as a decision is reached, Sharifi said.

Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006 and was later convicted of being an accessory to murder in her husband's death. Her family has denied that she played any role in the death.

Human rights groups and various governments have urged Iran not to execute Ashtiani. Last year, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton demanded that Iran stop the execution from proceeding, and British Foreign Minister William Hague called the proposed stoning a "barbaric punishment."

In 2010, Brazil offered Ashtiani asylum.

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Gena Somra contributed to this report.

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