TEHRAN, Iran — The European Union on Tuesday condemned the stoning to death sentence passed against an Iranian woman convicted for adultery, saying it was “barbaric.”
In his first State of the Union address to the European parliament in Strasbourg, France, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he was “appalled” by the news of the sentencing, and called it “barbaric beyond words.”
The sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was put on hold in July after an international outcry over the brutality of the punishment, and it is now being reviewed by Iran’s supreme court.
Ashtiani’s lawyer has said there are still worries the delayed execution could be carried out soon with the end of a moratorium on death sentences for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Ashtiani’s case points to larger divides between the West and Iran, which staunchly defends its legal codes and human rights standards as fully developed and in keeping with its traditions and values.
Iranian authorities have repeatedly bristled at Western criticism – including U.S. State Department rights reports – saying foreign governments overlook shortcomings in their own systems and fail to hold Western ally Israel accountable for its treatment of Palestinians.
Barroso’s comments came shortly after Iran on Tuesday scoffed at European concern over the case.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Ashtiani faced charges of murder and infidelity and the case shouldn’t be linked to human rights. Europeans who believe freedom for murderers serves human rights, he said, should release their own murderers from jail.
Offers of talks with Iranian officials were welcome, but only on bilateral and international issues, not the Ashtiani case, he said.
France and Italy have urged Iran to show flexibility in the case. The Vatican has raised the possibility of using diplomacy to try to save her life.
Mehmanparast said both cases of Mohammadi are still under review by the Iranian judiciary.
Demonstrators holding banners to support Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to death in Iran, at the Trocadero square in Paris, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. After international protests, Iran last month lifted the stoning sentence, but she could still face execution by hanging. Eiffel tower is seen in the background. Banners read, ‘neither stoning, nor subjugation’. (AP Photo/Michel Eul)