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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Iranian adulteress stoned to death
Iranian conservatives
Iran has seen a conservative backlash in recent months
By Jim Muir in Tehran

Reports that a young woman has been stoned to death in Iran, the second in two months, have stirred widespread international concern.

The Iranian media reported that Maryam Ayyubi, in her early 30s, was put to death at dawn on Wednesday.

The Iranian judiciary has refused to confirm whether the stoning took place, but nor has it denied a series of detailed reports in the Iranian press, so the assumption is that they are true.

Japanese Trade Minister Takeo Hiranuma and Iranian President Khatami
Stonings could be designed to damage Khatami's image abroad
Amnesty International has expressed outrage at the reported event; western diplomats had already expressed concern to the Iranian authorities on the practice of stoning.

One newspaper said Mrs Ayyubi was washed, wrapped in a white shroud then carried on a stretcher to an open space in Teheran's Evin prison

Buried up to armpits

In accordance with Islamic prescription, she was then buried up to her armpits and stoned to death in the presence of judicial and prison officials.

She had been convicted of murdering her husband in complicity with her lover, who has been sentenced to hang.

It is the adultery that carries the stoning penalty for women. In May a woman who had been waiting on death row for eight years was stoned for "corruption on earth".

She had been found guilty of taking part in a pornographic film. Her execution was the first stoning for several years.

Hardline backlash

Coming shortly before the presidential election here, it raised suspicions that right-wing elements within the judiciary were trying to undermine the reformist president, Mohammed Khatami.

Iranian parliament
The parliament is dominated by reformists
By reasserting the hard line at home, they hope to damage the president's image and credentials abroad.

European Union diplomats lodged strong objections but were told to mind their own business.

Other embassies have also been following the case of Maryam Ayyubi with great concern.

Amnesty International expressed outrage at the reported stoning; and said it feared that further similar executions might be on the way.

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See also:

11 Jun 01 | Americas
Death penalty worldwide
12 Apr 01 | Middle East
Iran MPs demand end to arrests
08 Apr 01 | Middle East
Iran arrests condemned
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Nine Iranian activists freed
11 Mar 01 | Middle East
Khatami: Iran must have democracy
04 Mar 01 | Middle East
Key Khatami ally sentenced
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Iran sentences spark row
14 Jan 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Backlash gathers pace
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