Iranian official says he was misquoted on threat to hang adulteress


An Iranian official who raised the possibility of hanging a woman convicted of adultery rather than stoning her to death says he was misquoted, according to media Wednesday.

Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the justice chief for East Azarbaijan province, at the weekend brought attention back to the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, whose 2006 stoning sentence for adultery brought international condemnation.

Fars news agency on Sunday published an interview with Sharifi in which he said he told justice authorities “we did not have facilities for stoning her.”

Sharifi said the reply from the chief of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, was: “If there are no facilities for stoning according to sharia, it could be changed to hanging.”

Other clerics were to be consulted on the issue, he said.

But Sharifi now says his comments were misinterpreted.

“In recent days, reports quoting me on the case, especially... on the method of carrying out the sentence against Sakineh Ashtiani were published in abbreviated form and with an incorrect interpretation,” he told other Iranian media.

“This case is following its normal course in line with the law,” he said.

Mohammadi Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning by two courts in the northwestern city of Tabriz, capital of East Azarbaijan province, in separate trials in 2006.

The sentence was upheld on appeal the same year, but in 2010 it was suspended pending a new examination of her case.

Mohammadi Ashtiani is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence on a separate charge of complicity in a lover’s murder of her husband. That punishment, originally also a death sentence, was commuted in a 2007 appeal.