Iranian woman facing death 'freed'

Activist says international outcry in support of Ashtiani may have contributed to her reported release.

    Images released by state-controlled TV show that Ashtiani was released, but no official confirmation was issued [AFP] 

    Photographs of an Iranian woman sentenced to death for adultery, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, have been released, but without any official confirmation of a report that she has been freed.

    The images, released on Thursday by the Iranian state-controlled Press TV, show Ashtiani while on home leave last week.

    The International Committee Against Stoning (ICAS), a German-based campaign group, says the photographs suggest Ashtiani has been freed.

    Patty Debonitas, a spokesperson for the committee, one of the main groups which campaigned on behalf of Ashtiani, hailed the reported release a "historic" victory in an interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday.

    "It's a historical success because the international outcry worked," Debonitas said.

    "The Iranian regime is under a lot of pressure and last week they executed Shahla Jahed," she said, referring to another woman who was recently executed.

    "Maybe they couldn't execute Sakineh because of the international outcry."

    Jahed was executed while her decade-long case was still under appeal, without the same international media attention that Ashtiani has received.

    Ashtiani's death sentence sparked global media attention and outrage among rights activists and
    others.

    The European Union called the sentence "barbaric," while the Brazilian government offered Ashtiani asylum.

    Debonitas cautioned against interpreting the release – which has not been officially confirmed by the Iranian authorities - as indicative of broader change without further evidence, saying it could be due to a range of factors such as political infighting within the ruling class.

    "We also have to see if they release her from all the charges that have been brought against her, and that remains to be seen," she said.

    Ashtiani's fate has been unclear.

    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 of 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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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