Iran has announced that a woman will not be stoned to death after being convicted of adultery following an international outcry, according to British news reports.
The Islamic republic’s London embassy issued a statement, saying “according to information from the relevant judicial authorities in Iran (Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani) will not be executed by stoning”, according to Britain’s The Times newspaper.
But the statement did not say whether the 43-year-old would be spared or executed by hanging instead, the paper added.
Human rights group Amnesty International has said she was convicted in 2006 or 2007 and has previously received a flogging of 99 lashes.
But despite the apparent reprieve, the Guardian newspaper reported that twelve other women and three men, whose cases have been less publicised, are still awaiting execution by stoning.
West leads outcry
The United States and Britain have led condemnation of the planned stoning execution.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday labelled the punishment “medieval”, saying it would “disgust and appal” the rest of the world.
“I’m appalled by reports of the imminent execution,” he said.
“I think that stoning is a medieval punishment that has no place in the modern world and the continued use of such a punishment in Iran demonstrates in our view a blatant disregard for human
“I think if this punishment were carried out, it would disgust and appal the watching world,” he added.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “Stoning as a means of execution is tantamount to torture. It’s barbaric and an abhorrent act.”
“We condemn in the strongest terms the use of the practice of stoning anywhere it occurs as a form of legalised death by torture,” he said.
A host of prominent names from the worlds of politics and arts signed an open letter condemning the planned stoning on Friday in the Times, which has been running a campaign to halt the execution,
Signatories included former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, three former British foreign ministers, and Jose Ramos-Horta, East Timorese president and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
American actors Robert De Niro and Robert Redford also signed, as did French actress Juliette Binoche and French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy.
“On top of what she has already endured, Ms Ashtiani faces a gruesome and agonising death,” the letter said.
“We urge the Iranian government to overturn this unjust sentence and reconsider Ms Ashtiani’s case.”