More than 80 artists, academics and politicians including actor Robert Redford, British singer Sting and France’s Bernard Kouchner on Monday called for the release of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning.
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been accused of adultery and of being complicit in her husband’s murder but her sentence to be stoned to death was suspended after an international outcry.
“Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has suffered enough,” the signatories said in an open letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the front page of The Times newspaper.
“We, the undersigned, call on the government of Iran to release immediately Ms Ashtiani, her son Sajad Ghaderzade, and her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian, from incarceration,” they said.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the leader of Britain’s Labour party Ed Miliband, American actor Robert De Niro, Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe and Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka are among the signatories.
Ashtiani’s sentence to be stoned for adultery, the only crime which carries that penalty under Iran’s Islamic sharia law, was suspended earlier this year, but she still faces possible execution by hanging for complicity in the murder of her husband.
The European Union has called the sentence “barbaric,” the Vatican pleaded for clemency and Brazil, which has tried to intervene in Iran’s standoff with the West over its nuclear programme, offered Ashtiani asylum.
While Iranian officials say Ashtiani’s case is purely a matter for the judiciary, it has become an international political cause and the head of Iran’s Council of Human Rights said last month there was “a good chance that her life could be saved”.