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Officials in the United States and Britain have condemned in harsh terms the reported plan in Iran to execute a woman by stoning her to death.

The condemned woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, is a 43-year-old mother of two who already received 99 lashes after confessing -- reportedly under duress -- for alleged adultery in 2006. A judge later reviewed her case and ordered that she be put to death by stoning.

Her two grown children are campaigning furiously to get authorities to review her case, but say they have gotten nowhere.

Radio Farda and other reports say the imposition of the stoning sentence is "imminent."

State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner on July 8 said U.S. officials "condemn in the strongest terms the use of the practice of stoning anywhere it occurs as a form of legalized death by torture." He described the process as "barbaric and an abhorrent act."

Toner added that Washington "call[s] on the Iranian authorities to live up to their due process commitments under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights."

Also on July 8, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was "appalled by reports of this imminent execution."

"I think stoning is a medieval punishment that has no place in the modern world, and the continued use of such a punishment in Iran demonstrates, in our view, a blatant disregard for human rights and commitments which [Iran] has previously entered into," Hague told reporters in London.

"I do call on Iran to put an immediate stay to this execution and review the process by which this woman was tried," Hague urged. "And I think if this punishment was carried out, it would disgust and appall the watching world."

Amnesty International, which has repeatedly called on Iran and other countries to stop executions, says it has recorded 126 Iranian executions in the first six months of the year.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has said Ashtiani was in an abusive marriage that led to the murder of her husband by another man with whom she was said to be involved. Both were given 10-year sentences but Ashtiani was additionally sentenced for the extramarital relationship.

written by Andy Heil based on RFE/RL, Radio Farda, and agency reports
A woman in Iran is prepared for stoning (undated).
Human rights groups and concerned supporters have launched a campaign against the execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, asking the Iranian government to revisit her case and revise its execution practices.

According to a recent Amnesty International report, the human rights organization made a new call on June 30 to the Iranian government to immediately halt all executions and desist all death sentences. The group has recorded 126 executions in Iran from the start of this year to June 6.

Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, faces "imminent" execution by stoning for confessing to adultery in 2006. According to CNN, Ashtiani confessed under pressure upon receiving 99 lashes after her arrest, but she later retracted her statements and denied any wrongdoing.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran also issued an appeal to the Iranian judiciary to halt the execution and asked the Iranian parliament to abolish the punishment of death by stoning.

When a woman is executed by stoning in accordance with Shari'a law, she is typically buried up to her breasts -- men are buried to their waists -- and bystanders are invited to throw stones until she dies. An April Amnesty International report said that according to Article 104 in Shari'a law, with reference to adultery, the stones used should "not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones." Ashtiani was sentenced to be stoned with medium-sized stones so she would die more slowly.

CNN's report also indicated that Ashtiani could be stoned "at any time," and prisoners are often not informed of their execution until the last minute.

The International Campaign for Human Rights also reported that Ashtiani was in an abusive marriage that led to the murder of her husband by another man she became involved with. She and the man were sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the judges decided, without solid evidence, to also sentence her for having an extramarital relationship with a man.

The International Committee Against Stoning has also launched an international campaign in support of Ashtiani and other Iranian women who could face death by stoning. The group, led by Mina Ahadi (see CNN interview), is organizing worldwide protests, inviting people to write letters and providing lists of executions by stoning committed by the Iranian government.

Philip Crowley, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said at a State Department press conference last week that the United States does not support the disproportional laws that punish women by death for committing adultery.

"We have grave concerns that the punishment does not fit the alleged crime," he said. "And for a modern society such as Iran, we think this raises significant human rights concerns, and disproportionate treatment of women in terms of how society metes out justice."

Last year, the independent film "The Stoning of Soraya M.," was released about a woman who was stoned for allegedly committing adultery in an Iranian village. It is now banned in Iran for its criticism of the Iranian legal system.

-- Ladan Nekoomaram

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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