Iran stoning halted, but family in danger
But the regime revealed its embarrassment by seeking to silence Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s son, who has repeatedly talked to Western journalists and human rights groups about his mother’s plight.
The latest development in the case came when Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of the judiciary in East Azerbaijan province, told the state news agency IRNA: “Although the verdict is definitive and applicable, it has been halted due to humanitarian reservations and on the order of the judiciary chief and will not be carried out for the moment.”
He insisted that Ms Ashtiani had committed heinous crimes, and that if the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, “deems it expedient, the verdict will be carried out regardless of Western media propaganda”.
However, her supporters insisted the regime had retreated in the face of world condemnation. “They are reacting to international pressure,” Ahmad Fatemi of the International Committee Against Executions said. He warned: “She is still in prison and still on death row and could yet be executed by other means. We need to keep campaigning.”
Fears were growing for her son, Sajad Ghaderzade, 22.
Mina Ahadi, an Iranian exile who heads the ICAE, said she tried to call Mr Ghaderzade several times from Germany. Her calls were blocked and she was called back by men who shouted profanities in Farsi. “Sajad is probably in trouble,” she said.
Ms Ahadi told The Times that the regime’s agents had also harassed her family, who live near the Iranian city of Zanjan, since she started highlighting Ms Ashtiani’s case.
Ms Ashtiani, 43, has spent five years in prison and received 99 lashes for her alleged adultery,
Her imminent stoning was denounced last week by government, human rights groups and more than 80 leading politicians, artists and other luminaries. Though Ms Ashtiani could be executed by other means Mohammed Mostafaei, her lawyer, told campaigners yesterday that, “her future is bright and the chances of getting her free are high”.