The death sentence of Ashraf Kalahri


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Update August 13:

The execution of Ashraf has been stopped by Ayatollah Shahroudi after pressure from both within Iran and from the rest of the world. Unfortunately this is just a temporarely halt, and we don't know whether she can be stoned at a later time, or sentenced to another kind of capital punishment. Please keep up the pressure on the Iranian government!


Ashraf Kolhari, a mother of four children between the ages of nine and nineteen, is at imminent risk of execution by stoning for adultery. She has been held in Tehran’s Evin prison for five years, and should by law serve the remaining ten years of her prison sentence before she is executed. However, on or around July 2006, she received the order for the implementation of her sentence, and is reportedly due to be executed by stoning by the end of July.

Ashraf Kolhari had an extra marital affair after her divorce request was rejected by the court, reportedly on the basis that she had children, and therefore had to resume living with her husband. She was sentenced on two charges; the first was for participating in the murder of her husband, for which she received a sentence of 15 years imprisonment; the second was for adultery as a married woman, for which she was sentenced to execution by stoning. Article 83 of the Iranian Penal Code stipulates that the penance for adultery by a married woman with an adult man is execution by stoning.

July 24, 2006 -- As the following interview reveals, the Islamic Republic's medieval clobbering machine continues the violent and barbaric execution of women by public stoning.  In 2002, after opposition groups managed to release photographs of public stonings, as well a video of the stoning of four victims in Iran, international outrage over this inhuman practice forced the officials of the Islamic regime to issue a pledge to halt this spiteful practice.

Yet, despite the Islamic regime's claim that it has banned the violent and abhorrent practice of stoning, nothing has been done to remove the provision on stoning in the Islamic Punishment Act. Nor has any governmental official or member of the judiciary has called for a moratorium on stoning.  Consequently, public stonings of women have continued unabatedly, and, in recent months, sentences of public stoning have actually increased. These actions are indicative of the Islamic regime's deep-seated misogyny, its complete disregard for women as human beings, and the ruling government's continued violations of human rights. The Islamic regime utilizes these abhorrent and violent acts to enforce a rein of fear and terror that would secure its survival and silence any opposition to its occupation of Iran.  Meanwhile, the international community allows these practices to continue by keeping silent about the on-going human rights violations in Iran, and by failing to report about the inhumane treatment of women and children, even when such acts arise to the level of crimes against humanity, which is precisely what the public stoning of women and girls happens to be.

Below is the summary of an interview of Ms. Shadi Sadr, legal counsel for Ashraf Kalahri, and an advocate for gender equality in the Islamic Republic, conducted by  Meehandokht media.


Ms. Sadr, despite the fact that, based on an order from Mr. Shahroodi, public stoning of women were supposed to have been banned, there are a number of these sentences that are currently being prepared to be carried out.  Do you have any direct and reliable information about this issue?


Shadi Sadr:  Yes.  In 2002, it was announced that, based on direct orders from Mr. Shahroodi, public stonings were officially banned in Iran.  However, because the laws were never taken off the books, stoning sentences continued to legally exist.   Numerous courts across Iran have repeatedly issued these sentences, the news of which were only reported sparingly and under a great deal of secrecy.  And while many of these sentences were suspended for a couple of years, unfortunately, we have recently witnessed an increase in stoning sentences that were in fact carried out.  Specifically, there is a woman in Evin prison by the name of Ashraf Kalhari, who is my client, and last week, she was sentenced to death by public stoning.  They told her that her execution was to be carried out in 15 days after her sentencing.


What can be done to prevent sentences of public stoning? What actions have you taken in this context?


 Shadi Sadr:  The only available option to us was the utilization of a law that states in cases of public stoning, if the condemned woman repents and the judge accepts her repentance, the sentence of public stoning will be commuted.  Accordingly, Ms. Kalahri personally wrote a letter to Mr. Shahroodi, explaining that she has repented, and pleaded with him to pardon her.  Additionally, we also drafted letters that stated the legal issues associated with stoning sentences, and we submitted those letters to Mr. Shahroodi as well.


What can happen now?  Does Mr. Shahroodi have the authority to personally prevent the stoning sentences from being carried out?


Shadi Sadr:  Yes!  Mr.  Shahroodi has complete authority in this context, and, in a similar case, he pardoned another woman.  However, the difficulty is that, at this point, we do not know exactly how many women across Iran are facing similar sentences, and we do not know if all of these women would be able to utilize Mr. Shahroodi's pardoning power.  My question is what basically happened to Mr. Shahroodi's order to ban stoning verdicts of stoning, which was widely announced on an international scale, and how is that order affecting the judicial and legal systems with respect to the sentences that they issue.

In my opinion, until the law is not actually changed, we will continue to have this problem.  It is possible that some of the executions will be prevented as the lawyers keep this issue fresh in the mind of the public.  It is also possible that people will become desensitized about these acts and amidst public and international silence these women and their plight will be forever forgotten.


What do you think is the real reason behind the recent resurgence of stoning sentences, and, as a lawyer, what legal steps can you take to block these sentences?


Shadi Sadr:  The parliament and the judiciary have the power to change the law.  The only thing that we can do is to show that public stoning sentences continue to be issued and executions by public stonings continue to be carried out across the country.  For example, a while back, two women were stoned in Mashad, and that news of their execution was published on the internet in a matter of hours.  The reaction of the international community to that news forced the Iranian government to stop public stonings for two years.  If lawmakers and judges continue to face that type of opposition and pressure, there are enough human rights and international laws that they can use to change these type of laws completely.


Is it possible for you to provide more detail about the reasons for Ms. Kalhari's imprisonment and her sentence?


Shadi Sadr:  She is 37 years old and a native of Mashad.  However, her case was prepared and tried in Tehran.  I took over her case and received her case file only after she had already been tried and had received the sentence of public stoning.  After she was arrested, they obtained a forced "confession" from her, stating that she had been involved in an extramarital affair with the man who had murdered her husband.  The issue is the highest court in the country has sentenced Ms. Kalhari to 15 years in prison for assisting in a murder and the sentence of public stoning is reserved for married women.  The legal argument here is that guiding legal principles mandate that Ms. Kalhari spend 15 years in prison before her sentence of public stoning is carried out.  Yet, right now, she has served only 5 years in prison but is being prepared to be stoned in 15 days!  This is the objection that we have from a legal perspective in this case, and we have written to Mr. Shahroodi about it.


Ms. Sadr, do you think that in the two weeks that remain, anything can be done that would at least delay Ms. Kalhari's sentence if not entirely commute it?


Shadi Sadr:  I hope that that happens.  If she is unsuccessful in having her sentence commuted or her repentance accepted or if she is unable to obtain any type of clemency, we all must think about why all of her efforts failed as they did.  We must ask ourselves if this is really justice.  We must consider the other women who are on the verge of being stoned and examine their status and condition and wonder about their fate.


If Ms. Kalhari's sentence is carried out, what do you, a lawyer who is an active advocate of women's rights, plan to do?


Shadi Sadr:  We will continue our objections against inequality and injustice.  I remain hopeful that this will not happen, but, even if it does, I will continue my advocacy on behalf of other women in these situations.  For as long as the law remains unchanged, women's rights groups will continue to fight for equality and for human rights so that we will never again witness the murder of another woman by public stoning.


Translated from Persian to English by Lily Mazahery

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