[Marxism] Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani still at risk of being executed; young son now threatened
homoindetermin at aim.com
Wed Jul 21 10:15:02 MDT 2010
Additional background info and practical suggestions on this case follow. I will forward my own brief framing comments separately.
From "Women Living Under Muslim Laws":
UPDATE: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani still at risk of being executed; young son now threatened
Since we issued our first update on Sakineh Mohammadi Astiani’s case last Friday July 9, the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women has received new information that she is still facing the imminent threat of being executed. We also received the news that her young son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, who publicly expressed his concern on the plight of his mother has been summoned by the Iranian authorities for some questioning about his activities.
More (including recommendations for action and contact info) at:
More background (excerpts):
1. Can you give us a summary of the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani? What was the legal process that led to her indictment?
On 15 May 2006, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted of having an “illicit relationship” with two men and was sentenced to 99 lashes by Branch 101 of the Criminal Court of Osku, in East Azerbaijan Province. Then, in a September 2006 trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, Mohammadi-Ashtiani was once again accused of committing “adultery while married.” During this trial, she retracted the “confession” she supposedly made during pre-trial interrogation, alleging that she had confessed under duress, and declared her innocence. Two of the five judges found her not guilty, pointing to the lack of evidentiary proof in the case against her, and noting that she had already suffered 99 lashes due to her previous sentencing. Even though double jeopardy is illegal in Iran, the other three judges, including the presiding judge, found Mohammadi-Ashtiani guilty on the basis of the “judge’s knowledge” or “gut-feeling”, a provision in Iranian law that allows judges to make their own subjective and arbitrary rulings even in the absence of clear or conclusive evidence. Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning on 10 September 2006. The Supreme Court confirmed her death sentence on 27 May 2007.
2. Did she have a fair trial?
No. Ms Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, has reported that that although she had apparently confessed to adultery, she later retracted this confession, claiming that she had confessed under duress, and declared her innocence. Furthermore, Ms Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s case involved double jeopardy, or the trying of the same crime twice under the same set of evidence. During the first trial in May of 2006, she was already found guilty of participating in an “illicit relationship” with two men and sentenced to 99 lashes. Her sentence had already been carried out when, in September, she was tried again for committing “fornication while married”, or adultery. In fact, two judges found her not guilty based on the lack of evidence and the fact that her crime had already been tried and sentenced several months earlier.
Adultery is very difficult to prove in Iran. Usually, four eyewitness testimonies are needed to prove guilt (which is obviously very unlikely.) From what we know about other stoning cases in Iran, adultery is more often proven by confession rather than by eyewitness testimony. However, the processes by which these confessions are obtained frequently violate human rights norms as well as Iranian law itself. For instance, the following violations have been documented in cases involving stoning: individuals confessed after abuse and living in harsh prison conditions; their lawful right to see an attorney before confession was denied; they were not told of the consequences of their confession (i.e. the possibility of stoning); they were illiterate and could not adequately understand the confession they were asked to sign; or they later disavowed their confessions, which under Iranian law immediately nulliﬁes the confession in court, but their disavowals were not accepted.
7. Are men stoned to death? Why do anti-stoning campaigns tend to focus on the impact of stoning on women?
Women are far more likely to become victims of stoning. Even though there is no article in law that mandates punishment by stoning exclusively for women, misogynist and discriminatory practices, interpretations and policies, make women far more likely than men to be found guilty of “adultery." In the Iranian Penal Code, a married woman has no right to divorce, a privilege which is reserved for the husband. Women have no custody rights over their children after age seven; as a result, women who can obtain a divorce by proving their husbands are either abusive or an addict, choose not to do so fearing the loss of their children. A man can marry up to four wives simultaneously, and may establish a sexual relationship with any other single woman through a temporary marriage without the requirements of marriage registration, ceremony, or obligation to any possible child that may result. In addition, a woman is legally obliged to submit to her husband’s sexual demands and do her best to satisfy him sexually. Hence if a man is sexually unsatisfied or in an unhappy relationship, he has many avenues open to him to dissolve the marriage and/or satisfy his sexual needs in a temporary “marriage.” However, these legal options are denied to Iranian women, and a woman seeking alternative intimate relationships is, in the eyes of the law, “committing adultery.” Many similar discriminatory laws and regulations exist in other countries and communities where stoning and other forms of cruel punishments are still being practiced.
9. Exactly how many individuals have been sentenced to stoning and awaiting executions?
The number of known cases of stoning since 1979 is around 30-40. The exact number is almost surely higher than this, but probably not by very much. Most of the central figures of the Iranian government are very aware of how this punishment embarrasses their government and elicits public outcry inside the country.
10. What is the attitude of the Iranian public towards stoning? Is there a gap between the customs of ordinary people in Iran and the norms imposed by the regime?
Iran is a country of over 70 million people. As such, there is an incredibly wide range of political, religious and social viewpoints. As we saw with the massive demonstrations following the June 2009 Presidential Election, there is undoubtedly a gap between the ideology imposed by the current Iranian government and the everyday beliefs and norms of the majority of the Iranian people. This government is quickly losing its legitimacy among a wide sector of society, including devout Muslims. The issue of stoning presents a very good example to illustrate how this government is using ‘culture’, ‘religion’ and ‘tradition’ as excuses to justify cruel and violent punishments, regardless of whether these acts have any genuine roots in Iranian culture or Islam.
The vast majority of the Iranian people are vehemently opposed to stoning. There is no history of stoning ever taking place in Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and most Iranians find the practice revolting. While many Iranians believe that adultery is morally wrong (as do many people around the world), they do not believe that it should be considered a “crime against the state,” meaning that the Iranian government should not impose the death penalty for such an act. It is worth noting that in Iran, adultery carries a harsher punishment than murder, and this offends the sensibilities of a large portion of Iranians.
11. What would make the Iranian authorities change their mind on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, and on stoning generally?
International pressure on Iran remains a very important means by which the Iranian authorities could be convinced to reverse the sentencing of Mohammadi-Ashtiani and to end the use of stoning as a form of punishment.
The news on the imminent stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani broke out in the international media in June 2010 when her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, published an article entitled “Sakineh on the Threshold of Stoning”. Since then, many human rights organizations have issued their own calls for action, and the case is getting a lot of publicity from a variety of news sources and government statements. (For instance, see: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=22500613)
There is a thriving movement against stoning both in Iran as well as internationally. The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign, a grassroots initiative in Iran, has been urging Iranian officials to repeal the stoning law since its formation in 2006. In the process, they have also worked to overturn many stoning sentences and educate the international community about stoning in Iran. To learn more about this campaign, see: http://www.stop-stoning.org/node/49
In addition, various bodies in the United Nations Human Rights system along with human rights groups including our own Global Campaign have called upon Iran to ban the practice. Though the Iranian government seems adamant to maintain its policy on stoning, we are hopeful that the practice will be banned in the foreseeable future if we can sustain the international pressure while tapping on other means of influencing the legislative and policy-making processes within Iran through dialogues and supporting progressive voices within the country.
We are disturbed, however, by the growing tendency in the media and in public debates which uncritically link certain forms of punishment such as stoning to Islam as religion. This tendency reinforces the growing ill-informed public bias about Islam as inherently backward or a ‘barbaric’ religion, and demonizes Muslims around the world. Worse, this framework is being used by oppressive States, such as Iran, and by extremist political forces that use religion to consolidate their dominance and control over communities, and most especially women. This contributes to the worsening of human rights situations, like what we are witnessing now in Iran, whereby those that denounce and resist violations and abuses, are being attacked and punished for being ‘anti-Islam’. The media and human rights groups have a pivotal role to play in exposing human rights violations, like stoning in Iran, while at the same time challenging the oversimplified coupling of stoning and other forms of cruel and inhuman punishments with Islam.
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