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Death by stoning defended by Iran

July 8, 2002

by Guy Dinmore in Tehran
Published: July 8 2002

Zahra Shojaei, Iran’s presidential adviser on women’s issues, has defended the practice of stoning women to death for the crime of adultery, saying the punishment is correct under Islamic sharia law and protects the institution of the family.

Mrs Shojaei made the remarks in a meeting last week with Laurette Onkelinx, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, who raised the issue of human rights amid unconfirmed reports that at least two women are on death row in Iran facing execution by stoning. “The ruling on stoning has been made with the aim of safeguarding the inviolability of the family,” Mrs Shojaei said at their meeting, attended by Iranian journalists.One of only two women cabinet members, Mrs Shojaei made a “strong defence” of stoning when criticised by Mrs Onkelinx, according to Resalat, a conservative newspaper. Mrs Shojaei also noted that the conditions needed to justify death by stoning – four witnesses to the adulterous act – were so stringent that if fulfilled, then the perpetrator “deserved the punishment”.

Sharia law provides for death through stoning for married Muslims, men or women, who commit adultery. It is specified that the stones thrown should not be so large that the victim dies after a few strikes, but neither should they be too small that they fail to cause serious injury.

Officials refuse to reveal how often the punishment has been carried out in Iran but cases are believed to be rare. Last year, two such executions of women were reported by Iranian newspapers. One had taken part in the production and distribution of a pornographic home-movie, while the second had killed her husband after an affair with a younger man. The lover, being unmarried, was hanged for his role in the murder.

The stonings were believed to be the first since Mohammad Khatami came to office in 1997.

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