Video: Iranian woman admits to involvement in husband's murder

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
STR  /  AP
In a state-run Press TV photo, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, left, is interviewed, in Tabriz, Iran, Sunday. The 43-year-old mother of two was brought from the prison to her home in northwestern Iran to produce a visual recount of the killing of her husband, Press TV said.
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updated 12/10/2010 8:32:59 PM ET 2010-12-11T01:32:59

An Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery confessed to helping a man kill her husband and re-enacted the alleged murder in an interview shown Friday on Iranian state television — an apparent effort by the government to deflect international criticism over the case.

It was the fourth time Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani has been shown on TV as Tehran faced an international outcry over the announcement that she would be stoned to death, the latest source of friction between Iran and the West.

Authorities announced her murder conviction only after the uproar over the stoning sentence erupted last summer, and her lawyer — who has since been arrested — said she was never formally put on trial for the killing and was tortured into confessing.

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Iranian authorities could use the murder conviction, which is punishable by death, to justify executing Ashtiani — though by hanging not stoning. Officials have not announced whether Ashtiani has been sentenced in the murder.

In the new footage broadcast on English-language Press TV, the 43-year-old mother of two was brought from the prison to her home outside the city of Tabriz in northwestern Iran where she was shown acting out the alleged December 2005 killing, complete with an actor portraying her husband.

Ashtiani, dressed in black with a beige scarf covering her hair, described how she began an affair with another man identified as Isa Taheri. She said she gave her husband an injection that rendered him unconscious, then Taheri came to her house and electrocuted him.

Amnesty International criticized the plans for the broadcast, which was announced by Press TV earlier Friday, saying it violated international standards for a fair trial by having Ashtiani implicate herself in a crime.

Image: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and her son, Sajjad
STR  /  AP
In a state-run Press TV photo, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, left, stands with her son, Sajjad, in the courtyard of her house, in Osku, Iran. The 43-year-old mother of two was brought from the prison to her home Dec. 6 in northwestern Iran to produce a visual recount of her husband's murder, Press TV said.

"If the authorities are seeking to use this 'confession' to try to construct a new case against her, for a crime that she's already been tried and sentenced for, we would condemn this in the strongest terms," Philip Luther, deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Program, said in a statement.

Mina Ahadi of the International Committee against Stoning (Icas) also condemned the program, telling the Guardian of London newspaper: "Press TV is acting as if it is the intelligence service of Iran. It has forced a woman to confess against herself on TV."

Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men after the murder of her husband the year before and was sentenced at that time to 99 lashes. Later that year, she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned, even though she retracted a confession that she says was made under duress.

After coming under intense demands from Western politicians and rights groups to free the mother of two, Iran put her stoning sentence for adultery on hold in July for review by the supreme court. It wasn't until more than a month later that her purported confession to murder was aired and Iranian officials announced she had been convicted.

Iranian authorities could use the murder conviction, which is punishable by death, to justify executing Ashtiani — though by hanging not stoning. Officials have not announced whether Ashtiani was sentenced on the charge.

In the footage, Ashtiani said Taheri tied a wire to her husband's foot and another to his waist — events that were simulated for the broadcast — but it took seven tries for him to die. "The seventh time my husband didn't move. He died," she said.

The re-enactment was part of a half-hour news program about the case, which included interviews with her son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, and her lawyer Houtan Kian, who also have been arrested. Press TV said two German journalists who were detained after trying to interview Ashtiani's family had declined to answer questions for the program.

The program's narrator said a police report showed Sakineh had confessed to being involved in the murder of her husband and named Taheri as her accomplice. Police arrested Taheri in connection with the murder, and he also admitted the charge, according to the show.

Ashtiani gave similar details in her previous confession on Aug. 12 but this was the first time she was shown in the house where the killing occurred.

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It also was the first time Ashtiani's face was shown. In previous video of her aired on state TV, her face was blurred. The only previous image of her face was an undated picture released by Western human rights groups that seems to be an ID photo, showing a younger-looking Ashtiani with a black headscarf.

Iran has waged a heavy public campaign aimed at countering international criticism, accusing the West of stirring up controversy to damage the country's Islamic clerical leadership at a time of tension over the country's disputed nuclear program.

Earlier this week, the appearance of photos for the Press TV program sparked speculation Ashtiani had been freed.

Mousa Khalil-Elahi, a judiciary official in Tabriz, confirmed to Iran's state news agency, IRNA, that Mohammadi Ashtiani had not been freed: "Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is in prison and the reports about her release are false … There's no development in her case and she is still kept in Tabriz prison. She is in good health."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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