updated 7/10/2007 6:22:33 PM ET 2007-07-10T22:22:33

A man convicted of adultery was stoned to death last week in a village in northern Iran, a judiciary spokesman said Tuesday, the first time in years that the country has confirmed such an execution.

Jafar Kiani was stoned to death Thursday in Aghchekand, 124 miles west of Tehran, said spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi.

Death sentences are carried out in Iran after they are upheld by the Supreme Court. Under Iran’s Islamic law, adultery is punishable by stoning.

Jamshidi did not elaborate on how the stoning was carried out. Under Islamic rulings, a man is usually buried up to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her neck with her hands also buried. Those carrying out the verdict then throw stones until the condemned dies.

International human rights groups have long criticized stoning in Iran as a “cruel and barbaric” punishment.

Before Iran’s confirmation, U.N. human rights chief Louise Arbour condemned the execution, her spokesman said.

“The execution has apparently gone ahead despite Iran’s moratorium on execution by stoning, a moratorium that had been in effect since 2002,” said Jose Diaz of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Stoning is in clear violation of international law,” Diaz said in Geneva. He said Arbour considered stoning to be a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited under an international treaty that Iran has signed.

Punishment called 'inhumane and barbaric'
In Oslo, Norway, Iran’s ambassador was summoned by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere to protest the stoning, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said.

Gahr Stoere was “deeply upset” that the death penalty had been carried out and called stoning an “inhumane and barbaric method of punishment,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Frode Andersen.

The reported execution came two weeks after international pressure, including protests from Norway, caused Iranian officials to delay carrying out the sentence against Kiani and his female companion, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, who also was sentenced to death by stoning. It was not known if a date had been set for her execution.

The couple had reportedly been imprisoned for 11 years.

Method seldom applied
Stoning was widely imposed in the early years after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought hard-line clerics to power. But in recent years, it has seldom been applied, although the government rarely confirms when it carries out stoning sentences.

There is no official report of the last time Iran stoned someone to death, but there were unconfirmed media reports that a couple was stoned in 2006 in the northeastern town of Mashhad.

Women’s rights activists headed by feminist lawyer Shadi Sadr have been campaigning to have the sentence removed from Iran’s statutes.

Iran’s reformist legislators have demanded an end to death by stoning as a punishment for adultery, but opposition from hard-line clerics sidelined their efforts.

Capital offenses in Iran include murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, blasphemy, serious drug trafficking, adultery or prostitution, treason and espionage.

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