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Mullahs' false propaganda

After an Iranian opposition group managed to bring out a video tape of stoning of four victims in Iran and the international outrage over this inhuman practice, which included calls for the abolishment of stoning in Iran, the mullahs' regime tried to deceive the international community. During the course of talks with the EU, the Tehran regime’s officials offered a hollow pledge to halt this cruel practice. 


What is the reality?

The truth is that the mullahs neither intend nor have the capacity to stop this inhuman punishment. The regime needs to maintain this barbaric punishment in order to enforce a rein of fear and terror for its own survival. This practice is also consistent with the clerical regime’s medieval mentality.


Despite the regime's claim to have called for a moratorium on stoning, nothing has been done to remove the item on stoning in the so-called Islamic Punishment Act. Nor has there been any call by officials for a moratorium on stoning.


The state-run daily, Bahar, on January 8, 2003, wrote that the reports about moratorium was only a rumor and that until it becomes law and confirmed by judicial authorities, it did not mean anything. It added: "When something is in the law and a practical punishment is specified, the courts have no choice but to enforce the law and at the moment, by the order of the authorities, the judges have no right to stop enforcement of the law."


No position against stoning by the regime's officials

None of the regime's officials or state-run dailies has ever said anything against this barbaric act. On the contrary, even those who publicize this false claim for foreign consumption to evade international condemnation, have make it clear that they are not against stoning in principle but that they recommend it be carried out in private to avoid international censure. In other words, according to the "reformers", the limit of change is to carry out stoning but it should be carried in secret, away from international scrutiny.


Temporary suspension of stoning is politically expedient

Mullah Rahim Mohammadi Ilami, a member of mullahs' Assembly of Experts, reiterated the need for carrying out stoning. He said: "Halting the implementation of some verdicts in some occasions, does not mean calling off the punishment itself. On some occasions, carrying out a punishment might not be expedient or the religious Jurisprudence might find the situation adequate and suspend it temporarily." (State-run students news agency, ISNA, December 27, 2002).


According to AFP, Mohsen Qaravian, a senior clergy said that if stoning would not be in the interest of Islam, it could be suspended for a period by the Supreme Leader. (AFP, January 4, 2003)


Despite the clerical regime's desperate need to engage in such propaganda on the international scene, scores of the regime's judges, judiciary officials or legal experts have reiterated that the law on stoning  and its implementation is mandatory and that the law has not changed whatsoever.  Commenting on a possible bill to abolish stoning, a pro-Khatami Majlis deputy Elahe Koulaii said: "This is a lie. No proposal to abolish stoning has been submitted to the Majlis." (State-run Hoarsen daily, 17 December)


Rise in stoning to death verdict in recent years

In recent years, stoning verdicts have increased in Iran.

There have been 26 reported cases of stoning to death, 17 of them women. The actual number is much higher.


According to a secret report obtained by an Iranian opposition group from within the regime, there have been 10 cases of stoning in the first six months of 2002. There have been at least three established cases of stoning and four stoning to death verdicts in 2002.


A woman and a man were stoned to death in September in the city of Naghadeh (northwest Iran) after 15 years of imprisonment.


In his last report to the UN General Assembly in August 2001, Prof. Maurice Danby Copithorne, the UN special Representative on Iran reported: "Since January 2001, the Special Representative has received information concerning the stoning of two women and the sentencing to death by stoning of at least one other. According to reports in the press, an unnamed woman was stoned to death at Evin prison, Tehran, on 20 May 2001.  The woman, aged 35, was arrested eight years ago on charges of acting in pornographic films. In January 2001, the Supreme Court reportedly upheld the death sentence by public stoning of Maryam Ayoubi, 38, convicted for the murder of her husband. Iranian press reported her stoning to death in Evin prison, Tehran, on 11 July 2001. A third woman, named Robabeh, was also reportedly sentenced to death by stoning in June 2001 for the murder of her husband. The Special Representative has raised these reports with the Government.  He urges the Government to remove article 82 (b), concerning stoning, from the Islamic Criminal Code and to undertake a policy of actively suppressing recourse to stoning throughout the country.”


Continued pressure: The correct policy by international community

Meanwhile, it is important to note the need for increasing international pressure on the clerical regime. Even the meager nominal retreat by the regime on the issue of stoning is due to revelations made on the regime's crimes in this regard as well as international pressure. It has nothing to do negotiations and dialogue with the regime. The leading Arab-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat wrote on 27 December, “Iran stopped stoning after a film on stoning was sneaked out of Iran.”


Thus, it is imperative that the international community call for abolishment of the relevant Article on stoning in the Islamic Punishment Act.


Experience has shown that the clerical regime exploits dialogue in order to justify the lack of change in its behavior. According to an October 27 report by Reuters, "The Iranian regime claimed that it was happy to discuss its stance on human rights issues such as hanging with concerned European countries, but would not change it." In response to Swiss Foreign Minister who raised objection to practices such as hanging and stoning, Kamal Kharrazi, mullahs' foreign minister, said Iran was bound by its adherence to Islamic laws, Reuters added. "For example, on hangings we said it is our Islamic law and we cannot change it. Through such talks we can further clarify the issues," Reuters quoted Kharrazi as saying.


Commenting on stoning Mohammdi Ilami said: "It has been our weakness that we have not been able to raise these issues in international arena adequately and to review these rulings on the basis of social, political psychology and realities of society."


In other words, the only problem as far as the regime is concerned is that it has been unable to convince the international public that stoning is appropriate. This lays bare the regime’s intention as to what is seeks to gain from dialogue and negotiations with the EU.


Islamic Punishment Act, legal basis of stoning in Iran

Similar to other inhuman punishments, stoning is not the result of acts of renegade elements of judiciary or the result of verdicts issued in contradiction to laws of the land in Iran. Rather, it is carried our in the context of carrying out what is stipulated in the Islamic Punishment Act.  Thus, Iran is one of the few countries where its laws sanction human rights abuses. According to BBC Radio, an Iranian lawyer commented to this effect: “As long as the law of stoning as a form of punishment exists, no authority could urge the judge not to carry out this sentence and in fact the law of stoning itself has to change." She added: "When such an issue is written in the law and carrying out the sentence in public is stipulated, the court has no authority but to carry out the law.  So, if the court were to run into a case where stoning is the punishment, the judge could not prevent the implementation of the law, even based on orders by the authorities.  Not carrying out the laws, should be based on the law, i.e., the laws have to be changed." (BBC Radio, 27 December 2002).


Stoning and other inhuman punishments are defined in the context of "Islamic Punishment Act." This law consists of 497 items and 103 amendments. This law itself is based on Item 85 of the constitution and all of its items are in contradiction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized international instruments.  This Act sanctions inhuman and barbaric punishments as preventive punishments. One of these punishments is stoning to death that is stipulated for specific violations.


Laws sanctioning stoning to death

Article 83 of Islamic Punishment Act stipulates stoning for adultery for a married man and a married woman.

Article 102 of Islamic Punishment Act stipulates that "for stoning, men should be buried up to their waist and women must be buried up to their chest."

Article 104 of the Islamic Punishment Act states that when carrying out stoning, "the stone should not be so big as to kill the offender with one or two stones. Nor should it be as small as peddles."

Article 89 of Islamic Punishment Act stipulates: "If the individual is sentenced to flogging and stoning, flogging is carried out first and stoning is carried out consequently." 

Article 93 of Islamic Punishment Act stipulates stoning women to death for even an ailing women and states: "Whenever a woman who is sick or is even on her period, is sentenced to death or stoning to death, the sentence has to be carried out."

Article 99 of Islamic Punishment Act stipulates: "Whenever the act of adultery by one individual is confirmed based on his or her own testimony, during the stoning process, the religious judge should throw the first stone and others would follow. But if adultery is confirmed based on the testimony of witnesses, first the witnesses throw stones and then the religious judge and subsequently the others." In an amendment to this Article, it is stated: "the lack of presence of the religious judge or not throwing the first stones by the religious leader or the witnesses would not prevent the sentence from being carried out; it should be carried out under any circumstances."

Article 101 of the Act stipulates: "It is adequate that the religious leader should notify people about the time of carrying out stoning and it is required that a number of believers, no less than three, be present at the time of carrying out the sentence."

Article 107 stipulates: "The presence of witnesses is necessary at the time of carrying out the stoning but their absence would not make it null and void. But if the victim manages to pull him/her out of the ditch, the stoning would be called off."


Judicial and religious authorities underscore stoning not abolished

State-run students news agency, ISNA, December 28, 2002: Babak Razmsaz, religious judge at Justice Department and deputy head of Be'sat judicial branch: “Since stoning is classified as a religious punishment and there is an aspect of God's authority, no changes can be introduced in this punishment. Therefore, in light of the views of the religious leaders and also the Islamic Punishment Act adopted in 1991 in accordance with the Shiite religious laws, the time and location can have no influence over the performance of religious laws and hence, this punishment (stoning) cannot be changed.


“The manner in which stoning should be carried out is set in items 99, 101 to 104, 106 and 107 of the Islamic Punishment Act and violation of these items are not considered prudent. Muslim lawmakers have emphasized that it is appropriate for religious judges to inform the public of the time of performing the punishment and it is necessary that a number of devout religious people whose number should not be less than three be present at the time of executing the punishment.”


Stoning should be carried out in public

State-run students news agency, ISNA, December 30, 2002: Ayatollah Mostafa Nourani said: “The stoning should be carried out in public as it has been in the past. The extent to which people were aware or not aware had no influence over this punishment and did not alter it. Therefore, this punishment should be carried out in public today as there has been no change in the era.


Head of the Justice Department in Fars province: No written directive has been issued to cancel stoning

BBC radio, December 27, 2002: The release of reports regarding cancellation of stoning in Iran by some media happened while there has been no judicial directive or written order by the Judiciary in Iran in this respect. Hossein-Ali Amiri, Head of the Justice Department in Fars province, told the BBC: "We have not been notified of any written or official directive and I have no knowledge of an order by the honorable Head of the Judiciary canceling stoning until this very moment that I am talking with you.”


Stoning is a deterrent in society

State-run students news agency, ISNA, December 28, 2002: Ayatollah Gholam-Reza Rezvani, a member of the Council of Guardians said: "Stoning cannot be replaced by any other form of punishment as Islamic decrees are not determined by the mode in society. These decrees may have been unpleasant for the people in the first days of Islam and in this respect no alternative punishment has been set for adultery.


"No other alternative punishment can be suggested for stoning as it has its own special decree and if the person survived after stoning, the sentence will not be carried out.


"Time and location have no influence on the execution of the punishment unless it was not advisable to carry out the sentence. This does not mean the sentence has changed but it should uphold the interests of the state.


We have no alternative to stoning

ISNA, December 27, 2002: Ayatollah Rahim Mohammadi Ilami, a member of the Assembly of Experts, said: "The reason for stoning and other punishments is to eliminate corruption …


"Regrettably, sometimes we improperly subject religion to social circumstances Religion, however, is rigid and society must adapt itself to it not the other way around... We have no alternative punishment to stoning. If the crime, in all its aspects, is proven, then the person should be punished this way and there is no other alternative.


Stoning is the main verdict and should be carried out

ISNA, December 27, 2002: Dr. Seyed Shamsoddin Mar'ashi, a legal expert, said: "Stoning is carried out in order to serve as a lesson for the others, to alert people that if they commit adultery they would be punished this way." He referred to items 68 to 72 of the Islamic Punishment Act on adultery and said: "These kinds of articles are verdicts which are defined and determined in divine laws and in these circumstances one can look at them as a measure of punishment, alertness and deterrence."


Replacing stoning with execution violates the rights of the offender

ISNA, December 9, 2002: “According to Ayatollah Hossein Moussavi Tabrizi, a member of Society of Theologians in Qom’s Seminary School, ‘In today's circumstances where domestic news in Islamic countries are reflected widely in the international arena, enabling the enemies of Islam take advantage of them in a destructive manner, stoning in public is not advisable unless in exceptional cases.’


“Commenting on the punishment of stoning, Moussavi Tabrizi said: ‘The philosophy behind all Islamic punishments is to cleanse the Islamic society from sins, keep people away from crime-prone contaminations and prevent the violation of the rights of others.’


“Enumerating the cases for which the punishment of stoning is stipulated, he said:  ‘It is not mandatory to carry out this punishment in sodomy cases, where the persons involved are married… There, the religious judge has the authority to order the implementation of one of the following punishments:


1. Stone to death;

2. Throw off a cliff with hands and feet bound;

3. Execution;

4. Throw into the fire.


“As for the need to carry out the sentence of stoning in public, Moussavi Tabrizi said: ‘Islamic decrees, in general and on punishments in particular, are designed to rectify society.  To this end, if in some cases stoning in public is beneficial to society, it would not only be not problematic to implement it publicly, but it is indeed preferable. On the other hand, if it is harmful to society, in that it would promulgate prostitution or be used as propaganda by the enemies of Islam and taint the image of Islam, then it would inappropriate to carry out the punishment in public.’


“As regards the possibility to replace stoning with other punishments, Moussavi Tabrizi said: ‘Under Islamic government, in cases where implementing the punishment of stoning would be to the detriment of the Islamic state, one can replace it with an alternative punishment which the Leader would specify, on the condition that the rights of the offender are protected.’ 


“Underscoring that replacing stoning with execution would violate the rights of the offender, Moussavi Tabrizi said: ‘When implementing stoning, the offender has the possibility to escape from the ditch, in which case, according to the Shari’s [religious law], the verdict would be nullified. Replacing the punishment of stoning with execution or other forms of carrying out the death sentence is not prudent and violates the rights of the offender. Thus, as an alternative, carrying out stoning in secret would be in the interest of the offender, consistent with religious law and prudent in shedding blood.’”

© WFAFI 2004 All Rights Reserved, to use please write to info@wfafi.og