'Iran says 'no final decision taken on 'stoning to death' woman's execution'

Paris, Nov 3 (ANI): French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has claimed that his Iranian counterpart has assured him that no final decision has been taken about the woman who could be stoned to death for adultery charges, amid reports that her execution is imminent.

According to Sky News, Kouchner said in a statement that he had spoken to his Iranian counterpart about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and added that Manouchehr Mottaki assured him that a final verdict in Ashtiani's case has not been issued yet and reports about her eventual execution were not true.

Iran has temporarily suspended the stoning verdict and suggested Ashtiani might be hanged instead.

Meanwhile, Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Malek Ajdar Sharifi, a top local judiciary official, as saying that Ms Ashtiani was in good health in a prison in Tabriz, northwestern Iran. Sharifi did not mention whether she would be executed or not but said her case is being investigated and is undergoing administrative procedures.

Earlier, the German-based International Committee Against Stoning had said that she was due to be executed by the end of November 3.

Following the report, leaders across the world criticised the planned decision.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "I think this is a barbaric punishment, I think it will damage Iran in the eyes of the world."

The EU's foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, was deeply concerned "by the reports and demands that Iran halt the execution and convert her sentence," her office said in a statement.

Ashtiani, a mother of two, was originally convicted in May 2006 after being found guilty of having had an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband and reportedly received 99 lashes in front of her son.

Later that year, as a result of information that surfaced during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, her adultery case was re-opened. Despite retracting a confession she said she had made under duress in August, Ashtiani was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. (ANI)

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