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Nine Iranians Sentenced To Death By Stoning

An Iranian woman being prepared for a stoning in the 1980s.

TEHRAN -- At least eight women and one man have been sentenced to be stoned to death in Iran and may be executed at any time, the lawyers defending several of those sentenced said.

The eight women, ranging in age from 27 to 43, had convictions including prostitution, incest, and adultery. The man, a 50-year-old music teacher, was convicted of illegal sex with a student.

The last officially reported stoning in the Islamic Republic was carried out on a man about one year ago which drew criticism from rights groups, the European Union, and a top United Nations official.

Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahroudi, ordered a moratorium on stoning in 2002.

"Our specific and clear demand is to have the stoning sentence stopped by Ayatollah Shahroudi since the defendants are liable to be stoned at any moment," defense lawyer Mariam Kian-Arsi told a news conference.

Judiciary officials were not immediately available for comment. But the Iranian authorities routinely dismiss charges of rights abuses, saying they are acting on Islamic Shari'a law.

The lawyers issued a list of those facing stoning, saying it numbered at least nine people and urged parliament to remove stoning and other corporal punishments from law books.

"We are trying to have such punishments removed and replaced by different ones so that it would be compatible with the dignity of humanity," lawyer Mohammad Mostafaie said.

According to Iran's Islamic penal code, men convicted of adultery should be buried up to their waists and women up to their chests for stoning. Stones used should not be large enough to kill the person immediately.

Shadi Sadr, another defense lawyer, called on the international community and rights groups to back their efforts.

"We are in close touch with human-rights organizations and many of them have supported our campaign," Sadr said.

Amnesty International earlier this year called on Iran to immediately abolish "this grotesque punishment" and said many of those awaiting execution by stoning were sentenced after grossly unfair trials.