French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner offers to plead for woman's life in 
Charles Bremner, Paris 
From: The Times 
September 08, 2010 12:00AM 

THE campaign to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to 
death by stoning, has gained further momentum after French Foreign Minister 
Bernard Kouchner offered to fly to Tehran to plead for her release. 

Dr Kouchner said yesterday he would make a personal cause out of the case of 
the 43-year-old woman, whose crime was alleged adultery. "I am ready to do 
anything to save her. If I must go to Tehran to save her, I shall go," he said.

The Foreign Minister's intervention came as Ms Ashtiani's 22-year-old son and 
her lawyer in Tabriz said they feared the authorities could order her sentence 
to be carried out soon after Ramadan ends on Friday.

Dr Kouchner's intervention was the most direct so far from a leading country in 
the case of Ms Ashtiani, who was convicted in 2006 of having "illicit 
relationships" with two men after the murder of her husband a year earlier.

"This is an unbearable punishment, the height of barbarity and a return to the 
Middle Ages," Dr Kouchner said after meeting Mohammed Mostafaei, her former 
lawyer from Tehran, in Paris. France hopes that EU foreign ministers will agree 
to a position on Ms Ashtiani's case by the end of the week.

In London, a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said its 
ministers were "committed to maintaining the international pressure on Iran".

"They have made their serious concerns very clear in both public and private," 
he said. "Her suffering is front and centre in our minds as we work with 
European partners on this specific case and our wider concerns about human 
rights in Iran."

MEPs will vote on a resolution tonight criticising Iran's human rights record 
and calling for an end to stoning and the death penalty. The draft resolution 
expresses particular concern over Ms Ashtiani and Zahra Bahrami, a 
Dutch-Iranian woman in jail in Tehran for taking part in an anti-government 

Sajad Ghaderzade, Ms Ashtiani's son, urged the world to keep up pressure on the 

"Ramadan is coming to an end and, according to Islamic law, executions can 
resume," he said. He called on Turkey and Brazil, Tehran's allies, to intervene.

Speaking in Paris on a crackly mobile phone from Tabriz, the family's home 
town, Mr Ghaderzade said his mother had been cut off from all outside contact 
since her televised "confession" on August 11. He feared this could signal 
imminent execution.

He said his mother had also received 99 lashes last week as punishment for the 
mistaken publication by The Times of a picture that was said to be her. A judge 
ordered the whipping for the offence of spreading indecency because the woman 
in the picture was not wearing the chador, the traditional head and body 

Houtan Kian, Ms Ashtiani's lawyer in Tabriz, said by telephone that he had 
received confirmation of Ms Ashtiani's flogging from a judge and prisoners.

He also said state agents had raided his home and office and removed files and 
a laptop computer. They contained the last traces of court verdicts that had 
found Ms Ashtiani innocent of involvement in her husband's murder.

"They beat up the caretaker of my apartment building so badly that he was taken 
to hospital," he said.

Iranian activists in Paris said the regime appeared to be at odds over Ms 
Ashtiani's fate.

Ultra-conservatives believed the sentence should be applied swiftly to defy 
world opinion. A more moderate faction was sensitive to outside pressure. 

The Times

Related Coverage
  a.. Iran stoning could happen after Ramadan Adelaide Now, 1 day ago
  b.. Iranian on death row given 99 lashes The Australian, 1 day ago
  c.. Iran contrives crime to justify lashes The Australian, 1 day ago
  d.. Iran 'stoning woman' to get 99 lashes Adelaide Now, 3 days ago
  e.. World urged to keep pressure on Iran over stoning The Australian, 4 days 

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