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Iran Accuses Rights Groups Of Propaganda

26 December 2004 -- Iran today accused human rights groups in Europe of launching an unfair campaign aimed at smearing its justice system.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik and European human rights groups have appealed to Tehran in recent days not to execute a 19-year-old girl sentenced to death by the Iranian judiciary for having sex outside of marriage. The human rights groups say Leyla Mafi is mentally disabled, giving her the reasoning ability of a child. Sex outside marriage is banned in Iran and can carry a death sentence by stoning.

But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi today accused human rights groups of distorting the facts. A Justice Ministry spokesman yesterday denied Mafi was disabled and said she had been a prostitute for several years. Assefi said the case would be further examined.