TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian woman whose sentencing to death by stoning has sparked international outrage has apparently confessed to adultery and talked about her husband’s killing in a state television interview.
In the interview, aired on Wednesday night, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani also criticised her lawyer for publicising her case, saying it had brought shame on her family.
A human rights campaign group, the International Committee Against Stoning, called the TV show “toxic propaganda.” Ashtiani had previously denied the adultery accusations against her.
International media attention given to the case has highlighted Iran’s high number of executions and may have spared Ashtiani from being stoned to death, according to her lawyer, who has fled to Europe.
With her face blurred in the telecast and her words voiced over for translation into Farsi from local dialect, it was not immediately possible to independently verify the woman’s identity.
Ashtiani described how she had struck up a relationship with her husband’s cousin.
“He told me: ‘Let’s kill your husband’. I totally could not believe that my husband would be killed. I thought he was joking,” said Ashtiani. “Later, I found out that killing was his profession.
“He came (to our house) and brought all the stuff. He brought electrical devices, plus wire and gloves. Later, he killed my husband by connecting him to the electricity,” she said.
The head of the judiciary of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province told the television show that Ashtiani had injected an anaesthetic into her husband. “After the husband went unconscious, the real murderer killed the victim by connecting electricity to his neck,” he said.
It was not clear whether the cousin had been arrested.
Ashtiani, a mother of two, has received 99 lashes for having an illicit relationship with two men. The stoning sentence has been suspended pending a judicial review but could still be carried out, an Iranian judiciary official has said.
Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran’s sharia law, enforced since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, told Reuters that Ashtiani, who was convicted of “adultery while being married,” was probably pressured into making her statements.
“Her life is in the hands of the people who have power in Iran, and whatever they want, they can achieve. It is a normal thing for Iranian TV to say lies,” he said in Norway.
He said the authorities might either now release Ashtiani in a show of magnanimity or “misuse her statements to justify her execution.”
Mostafaei said earlier that Iranian authorities had issued a warrant for Mostafaei’s arrest and held his wife in jail for two weeks in an attempt to get him to return to Iran.
In the TV interview, Ashtiani said she would lodge a complaint against Mostafaei.
“Why did you publicise my case? Why did you harm my reputation and dignity? Not all of my relatives and family members knew that I am prison. Why did you do this to me?”
Mostafaei said he had no regrets about going public because without international scrutiny Ashtiani and other people facing death sentences would have even less of a chance.
“Sakineh is a very poor woman who needs human help, not political steering,” he said.
The TV show’s host said Western media had given the case so much publicity in the hope of pressuring Iran to release three Americans who have been in prison for more than a year after being arrested near the Iraqi border where, their families say, they were hiking.
According to human rights group Amnesty International, Iran is second only to China in the number of people it executes. It put to death at least 346 people in 2008.
Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb and by Walter Gibbs in Oslo; Editing by Mark Heinrich