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Iran woman escapes stoning death

18 March 08 15:31 GMT

An Iranian woman under threat of being stoned to death for adultery has been freed, her lawyer has said.

Mokarrameh Ebrahimi was released from prison in Qazvin province on the orders of Iran's judiciary's amnesty commission, said her lawyer Shadi Sadr.

Ms Ebrahimi's partner, Jafar Kiani, was stoned to death in July 2007, causing an international outcry.

The reasons for Ms Ebrahimi's release are unclear, but Ms Sadr said rights campaigns had certainly played a part.

Human and women's rights groups in Iran and abroad had lobbied to prevent Ms Ebrahimi sharing the same fate as her partner.

On Monday night, after a total of 11 years in custody, she was freed.

'A trick'

"She's very surprised," Ms Sadr told the BBC.

Before she was actually freed, Ms Sadr said, "she couldn't believe this and told me that: 'It may be a trick - they aren't going to release me, I can't believe it.'

"But today she's very excited and happy."

Ms Ebrahimi was reportedly freed along with the son she had by Mr Kiani, and is said to have returned with him to her family in northern Iran.

Death by stoning is still enshrined under Iranian law.

According to the London-based human-rights group Amnesty International, Article 102 of the penal code dictates that men should be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts while being stoned; another article prescribes the size of stone to be used.

However, in 2002 the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, imposed a moratorium on such executions.

So the stoning of Mr Kiani last year - the first of its kind to be officially confirmed by the Iranian authorities since 2002 - was unexpected, causing additional shock among campaigners.

Ms Sadr says it is unclear what led the judiciary to free Ms Ebrahimi.

But "you cannot deny the role of public opinion and domestic and international pressures", said Ms Sadr, herself a prominent women's rights and anti-stoning activist.

Amnesty International says a total of 12 people - mainly women - are currently at risk of being stoned to death in Iran.

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