- Associated Press - Friday, December 10, 2010

TEHRAN (AP) — An Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery confessed to helping a man kill her husband and re-enacted the alleged murder in an interview shown Friday on Iranian state television — an apparent effort by the government to deflect international criticism over the case.

It was the fourth time Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani has been shown on TV as Tehran faced an international outcry over the announcement that she would be stoned to death, the latest source of friction between Iranand the West.

Authorities announced her murder conviction only after the uproar over the stoning sentence erupted last summer, and her lawyer — who has since been arrested — said she was never formally put on trial for the killing and was tortured into confessing.

Iranian authorities could use the murder conviction, which is punishable by death, to justify executing Ms. Ashtiani — though by hanging not stoning. Officials have not announced whether Ashtiani has been sentenced in the murder.

In the new footage broadcast on English-language Press TV, the 43-year-old mother of two was brought from the prison to her home outside the city of Tabriz in northwestern Iran where she was shown acting out the alleged December 2005 killing, complete with an actor portraying her husband.

Ms. Ashtiani, dressed in black with a beige scarf covering her hair, described how she began an affair with another man identified as Isa Taheri. She said she gave her husband an injection that rendered him unconscious, then Taheri came to her house and electrocuted him.

Amnesty International criticized the plans for the broadcast, which was announced by Press TV earlier Friday, saying it violated international standards for a fair trial by having Ashtiani implicate herself in a crime.

“If the authorities are seeking to use this ‘confession’ to try to construct a new case against her, for a crime that she’s already been tried and sentenced for, we would condemn this in the strongest terms,” Philip Luther, deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said in a statement.

Ms. Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men after the murder of her husband the year before and was sentenced at that time to 99 lashes. Later that year, she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned, even though she retracted a confession that she says was made under duress.

After coming under intense demands from Western politicians and rights groups to free the mother of two,Iran put her stoning sentence for adultery on hold in July for review by the supreme court. It wasn’t until more than a month later that her purported confession to murder was aired and Iranian officials announced she had been convicted.

Iranian authorities could use the murder conviction, which is punishable by death, to justify executing Ms. Ashtiani — though by hanging not stoning. Officials have not announced whether Ashtiani was sentenced on the charge.

In the footage,Ms.  Ashtiani said Mr. Taheri tied a wire to her husband’s foot and another to his waist — events that were simulated for the broadcast — but it took seven tries for him to die. “The seventh time my husband didn’t move. He died,” she said.

The re-enactment was part of a half-hour news program about the case, which included interviews with her son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, and her lawyer Houtan Kian, who also have been arrested. Press TV said two German journalists who were detained after trying to interview Ms. Ashtiani’s family had declined to answer questions for the program.

The program’s narrator said a police report showed Sakineh had confessed to being involved in the murder of her husband and named Mr. Taheri as her accomplice. Police arrested Taheri in connection with the murder, and he also admitted the charge, according to the show.

Ms. Ashtiani gave similar details in her previous confession on Aug. 12 but this was the first time she was shown in the house where the killing occurred.

It also was the first time Ms. Ashtiani’s face was shown. In previous video of her aired on state TV, her face was blurred. The only previous image of her face was an undated picture released by Western human rights groups that seems to be an ID photo, showing a younger-looking Ashtiani with a black headscarf.

Iran has waged a heavy public campaign aimed at countering international criticism, accusing the West of stirring up controversy to damage the country’s Islamic clerical leadership at a time of tension over the country’s disputed nuclear program.

Mr. Kian had been vocally critical of the case, saying that Ms. Ashtiani was tortured into making her televised confession and that she had never been formally tried for murder, suggesting the murder conviction was added later after the controversy erupted.

Gamel contributed to this report from Cairo.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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