The European Union traded barbs with Iran today regarding the case of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who was convicted of adultery and originally sentenced to death by stoning. During European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's first State of the Union address, he said that he was "appalled" by the original sentence and that is "Barbaric beyond words," reported the Associated Press. Women executed by stoning are buried up to their necks (men are buried up to the waist) and a crowd throws stones at their heads, which slowly leads to death.
Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, responded to Barroso and said, "If release of all those who have committed murder is considered defending human rights, all European countries can...free murderers in defense of human rights," according to the Associated Press.
Reports out of Iran also indicate that Ashtiani received up to 99 lashes last week because she supposedly appeared in a photo in the Times of London without a headscarf. The photograph was later found to be of another woman. The Times claims that Iranian officials knew the image was not of Ashtiani and that they lashed her "to make her suffer for an international campaign to save her that that exposed so much iniquity," reported CNN.
This case began in 2006, when Ashtiani was convicted of having extramarital relations with two men who killed her husband. While she initially received a sentence of 99 lashes for adultery, during an appeal of her case, the court sentenced Ashtiani to death by stoning. Her case has caused international outrage due to the inconclusive evidence presented and the barbaric nature of execution by stoning. The stoning sentence was soon commuted as a result of international pressure, but Ashtiani could still be executed by hanging. As a result of the high profile nature of the case, Ashtiani's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, is currently seeking political asylum in Oslo, Norway along with his family and faces a warrant for his arrest in Iran.