Last week Iranian judiciary official Malek Ajdar Sharifi said in an interview with Iran’s Fars News Agency that Sakineh Ashtiani, who had been sentenced to be stoned to death, might be hanged instead. (See “Iran renews threat to execute Sakineh Ashtiani.”) Sharifi explained that he told justice authorities “we did not have facilities for stoning her.” [By the way, what the hell does that mean? What specialized “facilities” do you need to bury a woman up to her chest and throw rocks at her until she dies?]
Mr Sharifi said the reply from the chief of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, was: “If there are no facilities for stoning according to sharia, it could be changed to hanging.” Sharifi concluded: “There is no rush . . . our Islamic experts are reviewing Ashtiani’s sentence to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging.”
After the international press picked up the story, Iran backtracked. Now Sharifi says that he was misunderstood: “In recent days, reports quoting me on the case, especially… on the method of carrying out the sentence against Sakineh Ashtiani were published in abbreviated form and with an incorrect interpretation. This case is following its normal course in line with the law.”
The best explaination for what is happening in Ashtiani’s case is that the mullocracy wanted to see how the world would react if it threatened to kill her. If no notice had been paid, they probably would have gone ahead with the execution. But since they can’t do it without the likelihood of severe international condemnation, they’re saying, “Just kidding, folks.”
The lesson is that only sustained international attention on Sakineh Ashtiani’s case can save her life.