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Condemned Iranian Woman Tells Journalists 'Leave My Case Alone'


Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced by an Iranian judge to death by stoning for adultery, sits next to her son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, during an interview with journalists from international media in the city of Tabriz.
An Iranian woman whose stoning sentence sparked international outrage has appeared before journalists, urging them not to interfere and saying "many people" had exploited her case, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

It is the latest in a series of officially arranged appearances by the condemned mother of two, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and adds another twist in a long-running prosecution whose brutal sentence shocked Iranians and the world.

Speaking at a brief press conference in the northwestern city of Tabriz, Mohammadi Ashtiani said: "Leave my case alone. Why do you disgrace me?"

She also denied as "rumors" allegations that she had been tortured while in prison.

Several lawyers claimed after previously televised confessions that Ashtiani, their client, had been beaten and tortured into appearing.

Ashtiani, 43, has been sentenced to death on charges of adultery in a case that also saw her convicted of involvement in the murder of her husband.

Radio Farda quoted reports suggesting that Iranian authorities allowed Ashtiani out of prison for a brief visit with her children, including the news conference.

Earlier in the day, her son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, asked that his mother's death sentence be commuted. "Since we have lost our father, we do not want to lose our mother too," he is reported to have said.

State Influence?

Ghaderzadeh, who was detained along with a lawyer in October after speaking with two German journalists about his mother's case, said he had been released on $40,000 bail. Prior to his arrest, he had been active in trying to publicize the case and get the sentence reversed.

The status of Ashtiani's sentence and the proceedings remain unclear in a country that frequently informs publicly of executions and other punishments only after they are imposed.

AFP quoted Mina Ahadi, a German-based rights activist who warned in November of the imminent execution of Ashtiani, as saying she thinks Ashtiani's latest statements were made under great pressure.

"I think she is being subjected to enormous pressure by the Islamic regime and has said that under pressure," the agency quoted her as saying.

Iranian state television frequently broadcasts taped confessions from prisoners, and a number of former inmates have given accounts of abuse by jailers seeking signed or videotaped confessions.

"I have given all the interviews voluntarily and no one has forced me," Ashtiani said at the Tabriz press conference. "I have spoken on my own accord. I was not tortured; [such reports] are all rumors."

International Pressure

The two German journalists, from the weekly "Bild am Sonntag," were arrested on October 10 in Tabriz for interviewing Ashtiani's son and family lawyer, who were also taken into custody.

Iran says the Germans entered the country on tourist visas and failed to obtain the necessary journalist's accreditation from authorities before they contacted Ashtiani's family.

"I want my voice to be heard," Ashtiani told reporters. "I want to complain about the German reporters who made this case even more complicated and worsened my situation. Why did they come posing as journalists?"

More than 100 high-profile figures in Germany, including Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, have signed an open letter to the Iranian government calling for the "Bild" journalists' release.

Ashtiani's former lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, was granted asylum in Norway and has repeatedly criticized Iran's leadership and courts, including in a lengthy RFE/RL interview after he fled Iran.

The Roman Catholic Church and Western governments have repeatedly urged Iranian authorities to spare Ashtiani's life.

based on Radio Farda, RFE/RL, and agency reports
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