By Associated Press - Monday, September 6, 2010

TEHRAN (AP) — Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who faces death by stoning for adultery, now has received a new sentence of 99 lashes after a British newspaper ran a picture of an unveiled woman mistakenly identified as her, her son said Monday.

There was no official confirmation of the new sentence. The son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, 22, said he did not know whether the new lashing sentence had been carried out, but he heard about it from a prisoner who recently had left the detention facility where his mother is being held.

“Publishing the photo provided a judge an excuse to sentence my poor mother to 99 lashes on the charge of taking a picture unveiled,” Mr. Qaderzadeh told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Javid Houtan Kian, a lawyer for Mrs. Ashtiani, said he and her children are worried the delayed execution by stoning could be carried out soon. Mr. Kian said a moratorium on death sentences for Ramadan is running out with the conclusion this week of the Muslim holy month.

Mrs. Ashtiani’s stoning could happen “any moment,” he said.

In Paris, her former lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, said that it was not at all certain whether there really had been a new conviction and sentence over the photograph.

“I have contacted my former colleagues at the court, who told me nothing was clear on this situation,” he said following a news conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. “There isn’t any punishment for this act in our law.”

Mr. Kouchner called the sentence of death by stoning “the height of barbarism” and said her case has become a “personal cause,” and he was “ready to do anything to save her. If I must go to Tehran to save her, I’ll go to Tehran.”

The Times of London said in its Monday edition it had apologized for the photo, but added that the new sentence “is simply a pretext.”

“The regime’s purpose is to make Mrs. Ashtiani suffer for an international campaign to save her that has exposed so much iniquity,” said the piece.

Mrs. Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men after the death of her husband a year earlier and was sentenced by a court back then to 99 lashes. Later that year, she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death, even though she retracted a confession that she claims was made under duress.

Iran suspended that sentence in July but now says she has been convicted of involvement in her husband’s killing and she could still be executed by hanging.

Mrs. Ashtiani’s two children remain in Iran, and her son is a ticket seller for a bus company in the northern Iranian city of Tabriz. He said he and his younger sister, Farideh, 18, have not seen their mother since early August.

“We have really missed her,” he said. “We expect all influential bodies to help to save her.”

The stoning sentence for Mrs. Ashtiani has prompted international outcry over the past months, with both Brazil and Italy asking Iran to show flexibility in the case.

The Vatican on Sunday raised the possibility of using behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to save her life as well.

Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Jenny Barchfield in Paris and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.


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