Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has offered refuge to an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of adultery.
Speaking in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba , Lula said he was prepared to use his "friendship" with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad of Iran to offer asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose case has provoked an international outcry.
"With my friendship and the consideration I have for the president of Iran and the Iranian people, if this woman is causing problems there, we would be glad to welcome her in Brazil," Lula told a gathering of Brazil's Workers' Party, where he was campaigning in support of Dilma Rousseff, a candidate in October's presidential election.
Ashtiani, 43, has already been flogged 99 times after being found guilty of adultery. The case was later reopened after a court in Tabriz suspected her of murdering her husband.
Despite being acquitted, the adultery charge was reviewed and a stoning sentence imposed based on the "judge's knowledge."
Brazil Tries Soft Power
Lula's intervention is the latest twist in a saga that has seen the Iranian authorities respond to international pressure by first postponing Ashtiani's sentence and then commuting it to hanging.
It also represents a change of heart by the Brazilian leader, who has fostered a warm relationship with Iran.
He initially responded to an online appeal in Brazil asking him to intervene by saying last week he could not ask other leaders to disregard their own countries' laws.
His latest move follows demands by the United States, European Union, and international human rights groups for Ashtiani to be given a stay of execution.
The Brazilian president has developed warm personal ties with Ahmadinejad. In May he helped broker a deal aimed at resolving the impasse over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
The agreement would have seen Iran ship low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher-enriched fuel to be used in a medical research reactor.
Pressure On Ashtiani, Lawyer
Iran has already denounced the international campaign to save Ashtiani, with state television linking her supporters to the "West and Israel" and accusing them of demanding the release of a convicted murderer.
Ashtiani's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, has also disappeared after the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest and detained his wife and brother-in-law.
Mostafaei has previously described Ashtiani's conviction as unjust and has played a key role in bring the case to international attention. He is also believed to have encouraged Ashtiani's two children to campaign to save their mother's life.
"Some judges hesitate to give such harsh sentences considering the fact that proving such a crime is hardly possible," Mostafaei said.
"It may be that such a sentence is given by looking at the case from a prejudiced perspective or from an angle of the social environment they work in."
On July 29, human rights activists in London released a letter they said was written by Ashtiani in which she said: "The day I was given the stoning sentence, it was as if I fell into a deep hole and I lost consciousness.... I'm afraid of dying. Help me stay alive and hug my children."
compiled from agency reports