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Saved by world outcry ... but now facing death for murder

An Iranian woman whose sentence of execution by stoning for adultery provoked a worldwide outcry, was instead due to be hanged for murder today.

"The authorities in Tehran have given the go-ahead to Tabriz prison for the execution of Iran stoning case Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani," the International Committee Against Stoning said on its website.

"It has been reported that she is to be executed this Wednesday, 3 November," the German-based campaign group added.

Officials in Iran were not available to confirm or deny the report.

British and US officials have pressed for an update on Ashtiani's case in the past few days.

But an Iranian diplomat was unable to confirm whether reports about her imminent execution were accurate.

"I ... took the opportunity to remind him that the UK government would regard the execution of Ms Ashtiani as utterly unacceptable," British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement.

The White House said the case showed a fundamental disregard for human rights.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the government of Iran's apparent plans to move forward in executing Ms Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani," it said yesterday.

Ashtiani's stoning sentence was suspended after prominent political and religious figures called it medieval, barbaric and brutal.

Brazil, a close ally of Iran, offered to give the 43-year-old mother-of-two asylum.

A government spokesman said in September Ashtiani's adultery conviction was under review but the charge of being complicit in the murder of her husband was still pending.

Under the Islamic law in force in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, murder is punishable by hanging, adultery by stoning.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fended off questions about the case from reporters when he attended the UN General Assembly in September, saying it had been fabricated by hostile Western media and called the United States hypocritical for its record on executions.


The case has worsened relations between Iran and the West, which are locked in a dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme, and was further complicated last month when two Germans were arrested in Iran while conducting an interview with Ashtiani's son.

The men entered Iran with tourist visas and were not authorised to act as journalists, judicial officials said. The German government is trying to secure their release.

In August, Iranian TV aired an interview with a woman it said was Ashtiani admitting a relationship with a man who then murdered her husband. The International Committee Against Stoning called the TV show "toxic propaganda".

The US has imposed sanctions on eight senior Iranian officials, including the commander of the Revolutionary Guards and several cabinet ministers, for human rights abuses.

That is in addition to the sanctions over Iran's nuclear activities, which it fears is aimed at making an atomic bomb, something Tehran denies.

According to Amnesty International, Iran is second only to China in the number of executions it carries out. It put to death at least 346 people in 2008.