Sunday, July 11, 2010

Iran teen jailed till her ‘stoning age’

She was only 14 years old when she was forced into a loveless marriage with an older man. Yet within a year of her wedding Azar Bagheri had been charged with adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death.

The sentence could not be carried out until she reached 18. So for the past four years she has been languishing on death row while courts waited for her to reach maturity.

According to Mina Ahadi, an Iranian human rights activist, Bagheri was denounced by her own husband, who accused her of committing adultery with two men.

Ahadi said the teenager had been subjected to two mock stonings. On each occasion she was taken out of her cell and buried up to her shoulders in the yard of Tabriz prison, in northwest Iran, as if being prepared to be pelted to death with stones.

Bagheri’s lawyers are now planning to ask judges to reduce her sentence to 99 lashes, Ahadi said. Buoyed by an international campaign against Iran’s death sentence for women convicted of adultery, they hope the court will show mercy. Last week, after widespread condemnation of the sentence of stoning passed on another woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, the Iranians backed down.Their embassy in London said that “according to information from the relevant judicial authorities”, the stoning would not go ahead. But campaigners warned that Bagheri could still be executed by other means. Amnesty International noted that three Iranians sentenced to death by stoning last year had been hanged instead.

“A mere change of the method of execution would not address the injustice,” said Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

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