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Friday, February 08, 2008

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February 7, 2008

In its latest assault on Iranian women’s rights, the Iranian judiciary has sentenced two sisters, Zohreh and Azar Kabiri to death by stoning. According to Iranian media reports, following allegations of adultery by Zohreh’s husband, the sisters were arrested in February 2007. In the first trial, which took place without defense counsel, the sisters were coerced to “confess” to adultery during the course of interrogations by the judge. The General Court of Ferdis found Zohreh and Azar guilty of “inappropriate relations” and sentenced them to 99 lashes. Instead of being released, after enduring the lashes the sisters were without explanation sent back to prison and later summoned for a new trial on charges of “adultery” in Tehran’s Criminal Court. On 5 August 2007, they were sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, a decision that was subsequently approved by the Supreme Court.

The lawyer for the sisters, Jabar Solati, has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court requesting that the stoning sentence be reviewed. Solati maintains that it is unconstitutional for Zohreh and Azar to have been tried a second time for a crime for which they had already been convicted and punished. Solati also stated that the evidence needed to prove adultery was absent; these include confessions by the accused on four different occasions and the testimony of eye-witnesses to the alleged crime. Furthermore, reports indicate that the official documents from the first trial relating to the lashing sentence and execution of the sentence were all missing during the trial in Tehran’s Criminal Court.

Death sentences continue to be issued with regularity by the Iranian judiciary despite repeated local and international protest by human rights activists, citizens, the media and the international community. In spite of a moratorium on stoning issued in 2002 by Ayatollah Shahroudi, head of the Iranian judiciary, judges continue to hand down stoning sentences, in particular and disproportionately to women, for adultery. These death sentences are being carried out. A woman and man are reported to have been stoned to death for adultery in 2006. As recently as 5 July 2007, Jafar Kiani was stoned to death in Aghchekand in Iran. Kiani’s partner, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, and nine other women including Kobra Najjar have all been sentenced to death by stoning. All these women are in prison and their sentences could be carried out at any time. Two men await punishment by stoning as well. Equality Now Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé says, “The Iranian judiciary should be upholding international law rather than violating the human rights obligations Iran has undertaken. Adultery must not be punished by criminal sanctions. This is a violation of the right to privacy. Moreover, stoning is a fundamental human rights violation in all cases.”

Stoning to death violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Iran is a state party. The ICCPR clearly prohibits torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. It also limits the imposition of the death penalty “only for the most serious crimes.” No criminal or other act warrants violent and inhumane punishments such as flogging and stoning. Moreover, adultery is a private act and should not incur criminal punishment. Protection from arbitrary or unlawful interference under the ICCPR has been found by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to include consensual sexual activity between adults in private.

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the civil, political, economic and social rights of girls and women. Equality Now opposes all forms of the death penalty. Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network comprises 30,000 groups and individual members in over 160 countries. For more information please visit www.equalitynow.org.

Please contact Iran’s Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi urging him to release Zohreh and Azar Kabiri immediately and unconditionally from prison. Also urge him to release Kobra Najjar (see http://www.equalitynow.org/english/actions/action_2901_en.html for more information about her case) and to commute all death sentences that have been passed and await execution. Iran must comply with its obligations under the ICCPR and ban the practice of stoning, and recognize adultery as a private act that should not incur criminal penalties.

His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Head of the Judiciary
c/o Ministry of Justice
Park-e Shahr
Islamic Republic of Iran
Email: iripr@iranjudiciary.org, irjpr@iranjudiciary.com and info@dadgostary-tehran.ir
Phone: +98 21 22741002, +98 21 22741003, +98 21 22741004, +98 21 22741005

In the United States please also contact:
Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran
(Housed in the Embassy of Pakistan)
2209 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: (202) 965-4990, (202) 965-4992, (202) 965-4993, (202) 965-4994, (202) 965-4999
Fax: (202) 965-1073
Email: requests@daftar.org

For more information, please contact Equality Now at info@equalitynow.org.



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