TEHRAN, (AFP) – Iranian television on Friday denied reports that the woman at the centre of an outcry over her sentence to death by stoning for adultery has been freed, saying that footage of her at her home was for a televised re-enactment to be aired later.
A German-based campaign group said late on Thursday that Mohammadi Ashtiani had been released along with her son and lawyer after the photographs of her at her home appeared in the media.
“Contrary to a vast publicity campaign by Western media that confessed murderer Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been released, a broadcast production team with the Iran-based Press TV has arranged with Iran’s judicial authorities to follow Ashtiani to her house to produce a visual recount of the crime at the murder scene,” Press TV said on its website.
The channel said it would air the programme, which includes interviews with people involved in the case including her son and her lawyer, at 2035 GMT on Friday.
Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was sentenced to death by two different courts in the northwestern city of Tabriz in separate trials in 2006.
A sentence to hang for her involvement in the murder of her husband was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.
But a second sentence to death by stoning on charges of adultery levelled over several relationships, notably with the man convicted of her husband’s murder, was upheld by another appeals court the same year.
Sakineh’s current lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian, was arrested in the northwestern city of Tabriz in September along with two Germans who were conducting an interview with her son.
The Germans entered Iran on tourist visas and worked for the Bild am Sonntag Sunday newspaper.
Her first lawyer Mohammad Mostafaie fled Iran for Norway last July, when Tehran issued a warrant for his arrest.
Iran has already paraded Mohammadi Ashtiani on television twice this year.
In an televised interview in August, a woman said to be Mohammadi Ashtiani admitted that a man with whom she was acquainted had offered to kill her husband and that she let him carry out the crime.
The sentence handed down against her sparked international outrage and diplomatic intervention by several Western governments as well as the Vatican.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula offered to grant her asylum, a move that Iran described as an “emotional” act without proper knowledge of the case.
Last month, the head of Iran’s High Human Rights Council, Mohammed Javad Larijani, said there was a “good chance” that Mohammadi Ashtiani’s life would be spared.
In July, Tehran said that the sentence to death by stoning had been stayed pending a full review of her case.
Rejecting Western criticism of the stoning sentence, Larijani drew parallels between Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case and that of Teresa Lewis, a 41-year-old American grandmother who was executed in the United States in late September for murder.
In 2002, then judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi imposed a moratorium on death by stoning and Iranian officials denied any such sentences were carried out.
But in July 2007, the Islamic republic sparked outrage by stoning to death a man convicted of adultery, Jafar Kiani, in a northwestern village. Three other men have been stoned to death over the past two years.
In January 2009, Iranian media reported that seven people faced death by stoning. One of them, a man, was hanged the following month.