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updated 9/16/2010 1:41:10 PM ET 2010-09-16T17:41:10

An Iranian woman facing death by stoning after being convicted for adultery appeared Wednesday on state TV to say she has not been whipped or tortured.

Her stoning sentence suspended in July, Sakineh Mohammad Ashtiani allegedly received 99 lashes on Sept. 2 after a British newspaper ran a picture of an unveiled woman mistakenly identified as her, her lawyer said at the time.

"I have not been tortured, at all. All these words are my own words. Nobody has forced me to appear before camera and whatever I say is my own words," a blurry image of a woman identified as Ashtiani said in brief video footage.

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She said reports that she had been lashed for the photograph were "false and rumors."

The case has caused an international uproar with several countries condemning the sentence and treatment of the woman.

Ahmadinejad pushed back in a Wednesday interview with NBC News's Andrea Mitchell, brushing off any suggestion that a court has even convicted Ashtiani  — instead insinuating that Western media have used the case to inflame tensions.

Story: Transcript: U.S. has 'hostility against our people,' Ahmadinejad says

"I have not heard that the judge has issued any verdict for stoning. And it has not happened," he said through a translator.

The Iranian president also said reports that the sentence has been suspended are also incorrect, saying that Ashtiani's case is still "in the initial stages of the legal proceedings."

"No verdict or decision has ever been issued by the courts; [it] has yet to be issued by the court. I think the problem goes back to the Western media, and they just want to show their hostility against Iran."

Stoning case provokes outrage
Ashtiani's latest interview marks the second time she has appeared on television to counter some of the outrage over the case. The first time was in August when she confessed to being an accomplice to her husband's murder.

Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian, said he suspected she was tortured into that confession.

Human Rights Watch said Iranian courts first convicted mother of two Ashtiani, 43, in May

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2006 on charges that she had an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband.  In that case, the court sentenced her to 99 lashes.

Later that year courts also convicted her of adultery and sentenced her to be stoned, even though she retracted a confession which she claims was made under duress.

Her lawyer said there has been no change in her case and the stoning sentence was suspended in July but not officially canceled. He has said Ashtiani was never formally put on trial on the charge of being an accomplice to murder and was not allowed to mount a defense.

Iran's 'independent judiciary'
The plight of Ashtiani has caused a global outcry and widespread criticism of Iran's justice system. But in the NBC News interview, Ahmadinejad trumpeted the same system.

"We have an independent judiciary in Iran, and we have a due process of law which is very progressive in the world," Ahmadinejad said before noting that tribunals and higher courts can review judges' decisions.

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"Don't you have tribunals in the United States? Don't you have people who are sentenced to death — who are receiving death sentence? Why does it happen?" Ahmadinejad asked.  "Does the government of the United States like to jail people or to imprison them?"

Mitchell noted that in the U.S. system, defendants have rights to a fair trial and legal representation, but Ahmadinejad vigorously defended Iran's system.

"We think we have a more advanced judicial system than the systems which are now — which now — that exist in Europe and in the United States."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Ahmadinejad: ‘Zionists’ roiling Islamic center

  1. Transcript of: Ahmadinejad: ‘Zionists’ roiling Islamic center

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Now to Iran and an NBC News exclusive. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is speaking out about the release of American hiker Sarah Shourd and the fate of her two companions who are still being jailed in that country. NBC 's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell sat down with him on Wednesday. She's in Tehran with the latest on this. Andrea , good morning to you.

    ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Well, good morning, Matt. The -- Iran 's president pressed hard for the release of Sarah Shourd partly as a gesture to America just before he travels to New York for next week's UN meetings. But on all other subjects he was confrontational.

    MITCHELL: Thank you, Mr. President. Iran 's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is taking credit for Sarah Shourd 's release, but said the fate of her fiance, Shane Bauer , and their friend, Josh Fattal , both still in jail, is not up to him.

    President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: I think we should let the judge and the courts decide about the case and I think that this is the greatest help to all of them.

    MITCHELL: One suggestion from the State Department spokesman on Twitter , he tweeted that you could take the two men on your airplane to New York when you go to the United Nations . What's your response to that?

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: That was a good proposal. If they had not violated our border, they would have been at their homes for over a year, for one -- for more than a year.

    MITCHELL: Iran's government has been encouraging protests in Tehran , trying to exploit anger against the US because of threats to burn the Quran and the controversy over the proposed Islamic cultural center near ground zero. President Ahmadinejad , who has denied the Holocaust , blames all this on what he calls a Zionist conspiracy.

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: We believe that there's a minority in the United States and they are Zionists . They have no religion. They believe in no religion.

    MITCHELL: There are Jewish leaders working with Muslim leaders to build the cultural center in New York City . So there's no evidence of any elite, what you call Zionist groups against it. In fact, Fidel Castro ...

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: That's certainly right.

    MITCHELL: ... Fidel Castro , your old friend, Fidel Castro , criticized you for your comments about Israel and the Holocaust .

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: I think you should allow me to talk, to speak.

    MITCHELL: Excuse me.

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: I think you should finish first and then you should let me explain.

    MITCHELL: Speak.

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: What you see in Islam -- Islamic countries is what the people are against, that ugly behavior. They are not against the people of the United States . They are not against Americans.

    MITCHELL: We see no evidence that there is any such Zionist conspiracy. President Ahmadinejad was equally combative about the UN 's nuclear agency, the IAEA , which sharply rebuked Iran this week for denying access to the two leading experts on the weapons inspection team.

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: But they are under the pressures of the United States and the allies and they expressed political views. So this is not a technical approach, a illegal approach towards the question. And it is part of the hostility of the United States against our people.

    MITCHELL: With all due respect, Mr. President, if there's nothing to hide, if this is a peaceful nuclear program , as Iran says, why not let all the inspectors who know the scientific and technical details -- so why not let them in if it's a peaceful program?

    Pres. AHMADINEJAD: Can't they go beyond the law? We say that it is against the procedures and we have evidence and the evidence is there, in the IAEA .

    MITCHELL: So Iran 's president is showing no sign of compromise on that nuclear standoff, even as he heads to the United Nations , and the world powers

    unite against him. Matt: All right, Andrea Mitchell in Tehran for us this morning. Andrea , thanks very much, as always. It's 7:09. Once again, here's Meredith .



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