The call in Iran’s state-run media for the execution of France’s first lady, the Italian-born model and actress Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, sent shock waves through the French and Italian embassies in Washington on Tuesday.
Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata said Italians are “outraged” by the blood-chilling report in Iran’s Kayhan newspaper, which also called the first lady a “French prostitute.” Another report condemning Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy was carried on the website of Iran’s government-controlled group of news outlets.
Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy since 2008, caused the Iranian media to explode in fury by signing a petition, along with other French celebrities, calling for the release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. She also was convicted of helping murder her husband. The 43-year-old mother of two confessed to the crimes after Iranian jailers flogged her 99 times. She later retracted her confession.
Under international pressure, Iran postponed the stoning but did not lift the death sentence. French and Italian anger also caused the Iranian government to distance itself from the wrath of its own media. Kayhan’s editor is appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In a comment to Embassy Row, the Italian ambassador referred to a statement from the Italian foreign minister.
“Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was crystal clear on this: Italians are outraged for such unacceptable insults against French first lady Carla Bruni,” Mr. Terzi di Sant’Agata said.
“We know the Iranian government has distanced itself from these insults. Now it is time for Tehran to show clemency on a case where a woman’s life … is at stake.”
French Embassy spokesman Emmanuel Lenain also denounced the Iranian media tirade.
“I think these ungrounded, personal attacks are deeply shocking,” he told Embassy Row. “That is what happens when you defend freedom in Iran.”
The denunciation of Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy began Saturday when Kayhan published a story under the headline: “French prostitute enters the human rights uproar.”
The newspaper inflamed the tempest on Tuesday with a call for her death and reference to her as an “Italian prostitute” who had illicit affairs even after she became Mr. Sarkozy’s third wife.
“This Italian prostitute’s indignation at Kayhan’s report came while she has had illegitimate relationships with different people before and after marrying Sarkozy,” Kayhan said, adding that Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy is a “depraved actress.”
“Reviewing Carla Bruni’s records clearly shows why this immoral woman has supported an Iranian woman who has committed adultery, has contributed to the murdering of her husband and has been sentenced to death, and in fact [Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy], herself, deserves death,” Kayhan said.
The Iranian media group (www.inn.ir) on Monday added: “This promiscuous woman of Italian origin, due to her race and actions, is not popular among the French people.”
In her petition, the French first lady pledged that she and the president would not abandon the condemned woman.
“Why shed your blood and deprive your children of their mother?” Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy said in the open letter.
“Because you have lived, because you have loved, because you’re a woman, and because you’re an Iranian? Everything within me refuses to accept this.”
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