Iran’s account of woman’s crime shifting from adultery to murder

TEHRAN — Iran appears to be answering international criticism of its handling of the case of a woman sentenced to death by stoning by suggesting that she is guilty not only of adultery, but also of murder.

On Tuesday, in the first official response to the Brazilian president’s weekend offer of asylum for the woman, Sakineh Ashtiani, 43, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the president had not been fully informed on the case and that “the details of the conviction of this individual” would render it “clear.”

The comment came after an earlier report by the conservative news service Jahan that stated, without citing any source, that Ms. Ashtiani had been convicted of the murder of her husband but that judges had not released that information to the press as the details of the killing were “too horrific.”

The same report has been published on several other Iranian news Web sites.

In 2006, Ms. Ashtiani received 99 lashes for having “illicit relations” with two men after her husband died Later that year, one of the men was convicted of the murder of her husband. Her case was revisited, and she was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning.

Last month, Iran’s judiciary postponed a final decision on her case, with a review apparently focused on whether she should be hung rather than stoned.

Over the weekend, President Lula Inácio Lula da Silva said that Brazil would grant the convicted woman a home in exile if she were “causing problems in Iran.” He had initially refused calls by human rights campaigners to use his cordial relations with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to influence the case but appeared to change his mind while on a campaign visit in support of a woman, his former chief of staff, whom he has chosen to succeed him in Brazil’s next presidential election.

Iran has been criticized by human rights groups over its extensive use of the death penalty, as well as its adherence to strict Islamic laws which make adultery a capital crime.

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