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There's No Stoning in Iran? Prove it, Mr. President

Marie-Josée Kravis

He came, he lied, he chuckled and he accused the West of fabricating a story about Sakinieh Mohamadi Ashtiani’s death sentence by stoning. “Stoning does not exist in Iran” said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Christiane Amanpour. Was he too embarrassed by the sentence to admit its existence? For it does exist and the Presiding Judge, Imani Seyf Ahmadi Mousavi, and the majority members of the Sixth Branch of the Criminal Court of Eastern Azerbaijan (File number 6/84-92 Provincial Court; Indictment number19/6/1385-38) signed the following majority verdict:

Her grave moral depravity and other circumstantial evidence point to her commission of the crime of aggravated adultery and have as a whole, convinced the majority members of her guilt in committing the crime of aggravated adultery. Consequently, according to articles 43, 83 and 105 of the penal code, the court condemns her to the punishment of death by stoning.

Worse, Sakinieh is but one of more than a dozen persons languishing in Iranian prisons threatened by this barbaric and repugnant practice which, contrary to wrongful assertions, is not condoned by the Quran. If official court documents do not suffice to shame President Ahmadinejad what of the desperate cry of Sakinieh’s young son, traumatized by the spectacle of his mother’s lashing 99 times? Convinced of her innocence and determined to risk his life and freedom to save hers he alerted the world to her plight. What of the bevy of Iranian lawyers who have combated intimidation and threats to them and their families as they try to save Sakinieh? A Western conspiracy? Untrue.

Mr. President, stop your antics. If you want the truth to be that “stoning does not exist in Iran” use what power you have to convince Iran’s clerics to remove stoning from the country’s penal code.

The only factual element in President Ahmadinejad’s discussion of Sakinieh Ashtiani was his acknowledgment of world outrage and indignation. People of all ages, of all walks of life, throughout the world have decided that passive resignation towards repression and human rights abuse was not an option. Nor are the frolics of a leader who has denied the Holocaust, the existence of homosexuality in his country, the suffering of his people, and now the existence of stoning in the country’s legal statutes. Prove it Mr. President: If stoning does not exist in Iran, get it off the books.

Update: There seems to be a dispute about the translation of President Ahmadinejad’s interview with Christiane, with some saying the president had not said that “stoning does not exist in Iran” but rather that he had said that “she had not been convicted of stoning”. This does not change the substance of his obfuscation.

While some translations insist that President Ahmadinejad simply said that Sakinieh Ashtiani had “not been sentenced to stoning” and not that “stoning does not exist in Iran” both formulations are a lie. As the decision of the tribunal, which we quote, states, under three separate articles of the penal code, she was indeed condemned to death by stoning. Clearly, the President was too embarrassed to admit it. If he wishes to be able to continue to say that she was not sentenced to stoning and if he wants to avoid having to discuss all the other cases of people sentenced to a similar fate, then he should get this barbaric penalty off the books. Differences in translation do not alter the substance of this argument.”

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