Death by stoning case: Iran arrests son, lawyer, journalists

Image: Sajjad Ghaderzadeh and Houtan Kian
Sajjad Ghaderzadeh and Houtan Kian, seen here in a photo provided by the International Committee against Stoning, were arrested along with two German journalists, the group says.International Committee Against Stoning
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

The son and lawyer for a woman who could face death by stoning, along with two German journalists, were arrested in Iran as an interview was about to begin, the International Committee Against Stoning said Monday.

"The security forces raided the lawyer’s office where an interview was taking place and arrested all four," the committee said in a press release. "Their whereabouts are currently unknown and no news has been received of their situation since their arrests."

Iran's official news agency did not mention the arrests of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, and her lawyer Houtan Kian, but did say that two foreigners had been arrested Sunday.

The IRNA news agency quoted judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi as saying the foreigners were arrested while interviewing the son.

Ejehi did not name the two foreigners. The report quoted him as saying the two suspects did not have documents to prove they were journalists and arrived in Iran on tourist visas.

German media reported that the two Germans, a reporter and photographer, were on assignment for the weekly Bild am Sonntag.

The committee said that "at the time of the raid, one of the journalists was on the phone speaking with Mina Ahadi, spokesperson of the International Committee against Stoning and International Committee against Execution. He had to abruptly end the call when the security forces brutally pushed their way in."

"We will make every effort to to secure the release of the four and call for increased pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran," the committee added. "The four and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani must be immediately released."

FILE - This undated file image made available by Amnesty International in London on Thursday, July 8, 2010, shows Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a mother of two who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran on charges of adultery. Ashtiani is now facing a new punishment of 99 lashes because a British newspaper ran a picture of an unveiled woman mistakenly identified as her, the woman's son said Monday. (AP Photo/Amnesty International, File)** EDITORIAL USE ONLY NO SALES**Anonymous / Amnesty International

Ashtiani, 43 and the mother of two, was convicted of adultery, but Iranian officials last month temporarily suspended her execution by stoning after weeks of condemnation from around the world.

A final decision in her case has yet to be made.

Ashtiani was first convicted in May 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men following the death of her husband — for which a court in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, sentenced her to 99 lashes. Later that year she was also convicted of adultery, despite having retracted a confession which she claims was made under duress. She was sentenced to death by stoning for the adultery conviction.

Stoning was widely imposed in the years following the 1979 Islamic revolution, and even though Iran's judiciary still regularly hands down such sentences, they are often converted to other punishments. The last known stoning was carried out in 2007, although the government rarely confirms that such punishments have been meted out.

Under Islamic rulings, a man is usually buried up to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her chest with her hands also buried. Those carrying out the verdict then throw stones until the condemned dies.

On the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused foreign media of fabricating news, saying Ashtiani had not been sentenced to death by stoning.