UPDATE: Iran: 'Stop Stoning Forever' Campaign

The Minister of Justice and spokesman for the Judiciary, Mr. Jamal Karimi-Rad, is the first Iranian judicial authority who has made official remarks in reaction to the Stop Stoning Forever campaign. In a press conference held on November 21, 2006, he denied that stoning is practiced as a punishment in Iran.
These remarks show that the official position of the Iranian Judiciary is that they do not approve of stoning and this remains consistent with the ban on stoning ordered by the Head of Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi, in December 2002. Although it seems that the dominant view within the judiciary is in opposition to stoning, the Stop Stoning Forever campaign activists believe that it is necessary to point out cases where stoning has been practiced, or replaced with hanging as a punishment for adultery, and hence emphasize once more the urgency to abolish stoning as a legal punishment.
1) Despite the denial claims by the Iranian judiciary and parliamentary officials, there exists indisputable evidence that stoning is being practiced as a punishment for adultery and in some cases is being replaced with hanging.
  • A man and a woman, Abbas H. and Mahboobeh M. were stoned in Behesht Reza cemetery in Mashhad on May 7, 2006.
  • A woman named Masoumeh, who was originally sentenced to stoning, was hanged behind closed doors after being transferred from Rajaii-Shahr prison to Evin prison in August, 2006.
  • A woman was hanged in public in Ghazvin in February 2006.
The Iranian officials are well aware that according to the Sharia law of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran, one punishment cannot be replaced with another. Thus, replacing stoning with hanging is in contradiction of the law.

2) The judiciary spokesman in his remarks mentioned that evidence of adultery can hardly be presented in the court, concluding that stoning sentences could not be legally approved. These remarks can be disputed from three different angles.
  • Although it is apparently very difficult to provide evidence in the court to prove adultery (testimonies by four fair male witnesses, or four confessions to the offense by the accused), Article 105 of the Islamic Penal Code leaves the judge’s hands open to issue a subjective and arbitrary ruling based on his own understanding, or knowledge, of the case. As it has been stated by the lawyers of five women sentenced to stoning in a letter to the Head of Judiciary, in most of the cases these women have been sentenced solely based on the judge’s knowledge despite the lack of evidence. Thus, the difficulty of presenting evidence is not an issue when the judge can rely on his own knowledge.
  • Mr. Karimi-Rad claims that stoning sentences never obtain final approval. However, there are current cases of stoning that contradict such a claim.
  • Stoning sentences for three women, Ashraf Kalhori, Kobra N., and Kheyreyeh V., were issued in Tehran, Tabriz and Behbahan and were all approved by the High State Court (Divaan Aali Keshvar). Their sentences are final and legally bound to be executed.
  • The stoning sentence of Hajieh Esmailvand was not only approved by the High State Court, but she was scheduled to be executed in August 2004 and the local officials were notified of the exact time and place before the Head of Judiciary ordered a stay of execution.
  • The stoning sentence for a woman named Iran A., issued by the lower court in Lali, has also approved by the High State Court.
  • The statement by Mr. Karimi-Rad that the stoning sentences issued by lower courts are never approved by the High State Court is not a legally sound statement. While a judge is allowed and obliged to rule independently within the framework of the law, how could one expect him to refrain from issuing stoning sentences? When the law specifies stoning as the punishment for adultery, how is the judge expected to rule otherwise? The ban on the practice of stoning ordered by Ayatollah Shahroudi is in contradiction with the current mandate of the law, and judges are obliged to respect the law above any procedural order. Why try to contradict the law by an order and make ruling a complicated matter? Is it not the time to change the law and provide a simple guarantee that no stoning sentences will be issued?
3) The judiciary spokesman has stated that, “the stoning sentence has not been practiced in Iran yet.” There is plenty of credible evidence regarding the practice of stoning in the past 28 years that contradicts this claim. Nevertheless, even if it is true, then the question is why should we keep the law of stoning when it is never practiced? This punishment for adultery has been provisioned in the Punishments for Violation of God’s Rule and Retribution-in-Kind Act (Hodoud and Ghesaas) ratified in 1983, and the Islamic Penal Code of Iran, ratified in 1996 (for trial), which has just been extended for one more year in August, 2006. The ritual for stoning has been prescribed in detail along with the ritual for other types of execution. However, if it has never been practiced, why should this abandoned law that is kept secretive and denied by all the Iranian officials be included and described in so many articles of the penal code?

Stop Stoning Forever Campaign

For more information and news related to the campaign, see http://www.meydaan.com/English/Default.aspx
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Stop Stoning Forever Campaign