Death by stoning continues in Iran

A report published today by Amnesty International says that a moratorium in Iran on the sentence to death by stoning is not being upheld. One person was stoned to death in 2007, two people in 2006, and a further 11 people are at risk of being stoned to death, according to the report. Iran's Penal Code prescribes execution by stoning but a moratorium was placed on the practice by the Head of the Judiciary in 2002.


Amnesty International (AI) says that the practice of stoning to death is deliberatly designed to increase the suffering of victims; Iran's Penal Code dictates that stones be large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim “in one or two strikes”. Article 104 of the Penal Code further states that stones should not be “so small that they could not be defined as stones”.  Men are buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning.

Ja'far Kiani was stoned to death on 5 July, 2007 in the village of Aghche-kand, near Takestan in Qazvin province - the first officially confirmed stoning since 2002. A woman and a man are known to also have been stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006. AI said that Mr Kiani “had been convicted of committing adultery with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children and who was also sentenced to death by stoning. The stoning was carried out despite a stay of execution ordered in his case and in defiance of the 2002 moratorium”. It is feared that Mokarrameh Ebrahimi may yet be stoned to death. She is presently incarcerated in Choubin prison, Qazvin province, apparently with one of her two children.

AI further criticises Iran's justice system which “commonly results in unfair trials, including capital cases”. In particular, it says that women “are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. They are particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because they are more likely than men to be illiterate and therefore more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit”. Nine of the 11 people at risk of being stoned to death are women. The 11 cases cited by Amnesty International are detailed below:

Awaiting execution

At least nine women – Iran, Khayrieh, Kobra N, Fatemeh, Ashraf Kalhori, Shamameh Ghorbani, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, Leyla Ghomi and Hajar – are at risk of being stoned to death, along with two men – Abdollah Fariva and an unamed Afghan national – according to information received by Amnesty International.

1) Iran, a Bakhtiari woman, was reportedly talking to the son of a neighbour in the
courtyard of her house when her husband attacked her with a knife. She was left bleeding and unconscious on the floor. While she was unconscious, the young man allegedly killed her husband with the same knife. When police interrogated her about the killing, Iran reportedly confessed to adultery with the son of her neighbour. She later retracted her confession. A court in the city of Khuzestan, south-west Iran, sentenced her to five years' imprisonment for being an accomplice in the murder of her husband, and to execution by stoning for adultery. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in April 2006. Her lawyer petitioned the Discernment Branch of the Supreme Court to revoke the sentence, citing legal deficiencies. In June 2007 it was announced that Branch 13 of the Discernment Branch had overturned the stoning sentence and sent her case back for retrial before a criminal court in Khuzestan. The retrial is not known to have taken place. She is detained in Sepidar prison in Ahvaz city.

2) Khayrieh was sentenced to death by Branch 3 of Behbahan Court in Khuzestan for
being an accomplice to murder and to execution by stoning for adultery. She reportedly suffered violence at the hands of her husband and began an affair with a relative of her husband, who then murdered her husband. Khayrieh confessed to adultery but denied any involvement in her husband's murder. The sentence was upheld, and the case has reportedly been sent to the Head of the Judiciary for permission to carry out the execution.

3) Kobra N, who is in Tabriz prison in north-west Iran, was sentenced to eight years'
imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder of her husband, and execution by stoning for adultery. She was allegedly forced into prostitution by her husband, a heroin addict who was violent towards her. In 1995, after a severe beating by her husband, she told one of her regular customers that she wanted to kill her husband. The customer allegedly murdered her husband after Kobra N took him to an arranged meeting place. He was sentenced to death, but was pardoned by the victim's family on payment of diyeh (“blood money”). Kobra N has reportedly written to the Amnesty and Clemency Commission to ask for her sentence of execution by stoning to be commuted, and is awaiting a reply.

4) An unnamed Afghan man is at risk of execution by stoning in Mashhad for the rape
in 2003 of his 16-year-old sister-in-law. The initial sentence was repealed by Branch 41 of the Supreme Court, but another court in Mashhad sentenced him to stoning again. This sentence was also repealed and the case was sent for retrial in Mashhad. A third sentence of stoning was issued and this was upheld on 20 February 2007 by the General Board of the Supreme Court. The decision accepted the right of the judge to use his knowledge to determine the case because the man had confessed only three times, not four.

5) Fatemeh was sentenced to execution by stoning for having an “illicit relationship” with a man named Mahmoud and to death for being an accomplice to his murder. She was sentenced by Branch 71 of the Tehran Province Criminal Court in May 2005. Her husband was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder of Mahmoud. The case is being examined in the Supreme Court. According to a May 2005 report in the newspaper E'temad, there was an altercation between Mahmoud and Fatemeh's husband. Fatemeh confessed to tying a rope around Mahmoud's throat, which resulted in his strangulation. She says that she intended merely to tie his hands and feet after he was unconscious and hand him over to the police.

6) Ashraf Kalhori, a mother of four, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery and to 15 years' imprisonment for taking part in the murder of her husband. According to Ashraf Kalhori, the killing was accidental, but police accused her of having an affair with her neighbour and encouraging the attack. She reportedly confessed to adultery under police interrogation, but later retracted her confession. She was scheduled to be stoned before the end of July 2006 but her execution was stayed temporarily by the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Shahroudi.

7) Shamameh Ghorbani (also known as Malek), an Iranian Kurd, was sentenced to
execution by stoning for adultery by a court in Oromieh in June 2006. Her brothers and husband reportedly murdered a man they found in her house, and she too was nearly killed when they stabbed her. In November 2006, it was reported that the Supreme Court had rejected the sentence of stoning and ordered a retrial, citing incomplete investigations in the case. It is believed that Shamameh Ghorbani confessed to adultery in court, believing that this would protect her brothers and husband from prosecution for murder. Under Iranian law, a murder may not be punished if committed defending one's honour or that of relatives. In a letter to Branch 12 of the Criminal Court, Shamameh Ghorbani is reported to have said, “Since I am a rural, illiterate woman and I didn't know the law, I thought that if I confessed to a relationship with the dead man, I could clear my brothers and husband of intentional murder. I said these untrue words in court and then understood I had done myself an injury.”

8) Abdollah Fariva was reportedly sentenced to death by stoning. He was arrested in
November 2004 following a complaint filed by a man who accused him of having an illegal affair with his daughter. Abdollah Fariva, a musician, had reportedly been tutoring a young girl and having a sexual affair with her since she was 16 years old. He claims he initially confessed, three times in a three-week period, because he was scared of the police investigators. According to the Penal Code, four confessions constitute proof of guilt. However, Abdollah Fariva wrote to the court stating that he never confessed for the fourth time. He also said that because his wife has medical problems that prevent sexual relations, he had engaged his young pupil in a sigheh (temporary marriage) and that therefore his affair with her was legal and not adulterous.

9) Mokarrameh Ebrahimi faces execution by stoning for adultery with Ja'far Kiani, who has already been stoned to death (see Introduction above). In mid-October 2007, her lawyer Sa'id Eghbali announced that her case had been sent to the Amnesty and Clemency Commission by the Office of the Head of the Judiciary.

10) Leyla Ghomi is believed to be held under sentence of stoning in Evin Prison in Tehran. Amnesty International has no further details about her case.

11) Hajar was reportedly sentenced to death by stoning for adultery by Branch 5 of the Mashhad General Court in September 2007. According to the report, a male co-defendant was sentenced to 100 lashes for fornication.