Iran Fails to Silence Critics by Changing Woman's Death Sentence From Stoning to Hanging

Iranian officials, already under fire for sentencing a woman to death by stoning, has done little to diminish international outcry by instead pursuing an execution by hanging.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 44, was convicted back in 2006 for an “illicit relationship outside of marriage” and sentenced to death by stoning. The execution was delayed after protests across the globe, and Ashtiani has been detained in prison ever since.

On Sunday, the head judiciary, Malek Ajdar Sharifi said the prison does not have the “necessary facilities” to carry forth with the stoning and that they are considering hanging as an alternative.

Sharifi told the Isna News Agency that an investigation is being conducted to see if it is legally and religiously possible to execute Ashtiani by hanging and that once a determination is made, the sentence will be carried out.

The comments have reignited efforts to get Ashtiani freed.

Iran’s most recent attempt to escape another international embarrassment by converting the sentence to death by hanging still results in Iran violating its obligations under international law,” said Tiffany Barrans of The American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington-based civil rights watchdog group that is calling for the unconditional release of Ashtiani.

“The regime’s post hoc attempts to justify Ashtiani’s death sentence by digging up old criminal charges should be seen as nothing less than an attempt to hide its flagrant disregard for human rights," Barrans said. "Ashtiani’s previous charge and sentence for her alleged involvement with her husband’s murder, a sentence which did not involve death, is suspect at best."

The U.S. State Department has also showed concern over the ruling calling for Iran to “live up to its international commitments to prevent cruel and inhuman treatment.”

“We remain deeply troubled by this case.  The Iranian government has previously stated that Ms. Ashtiani would not face execution by stoning, but her fate remains unclear,” a State Department spokeperson told "We continue to have serious concerns regarding the judicial proceedings that led to her conviction. We once again call on the Iranian government to conduct her case with the transparency and due process written in Iran’s own constitution as well as in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.”

According to Article 7 of the ICCPR convention, “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article 6ix states that a death sentence should only be imposed for the most serious of crimes.

“Adultery, by all international standards, does not qualify as one of the ‘most serious crimes,’” Barrans said.