- (Photo: AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
The Vatican is expected to intervene in the case of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning, but “not in a public way.”
"When the Holy See is asked, in an appropriate way, to intervene in humanitarian issues with the authorities of other countries, as it has happened many times in the past, it does so not in a public way, but through its own diplomatic channels," the director of the Vatican's press office, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in the statement.
The Vatican spokesman did, however, assure the press that “the Holy See is following the situation with attention and participation.”
Lombardi also noted the Church's general opposition to the death penalty, adding that "stoning is a particularly brutal form [of it]."
Four years ago, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted of adultery after having pled to the crime of "illicit relationship" with two men, though the incident occurred after the death of her husband. The mother of two later retracted her confession to the crime, claiming it was made under duress and that she doesn't speak Persian, but instead only Azeri, an Azerbaijani language more closely related to Turkish.
In May 2007, however, the Iranian supreme court confirmed her death sentence while leaving open the possibility of execution by another method.
This past July, Iranian authorities said they would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time being, but Ashtiani could still face execution by hanging for adultery and other offenses.
Brazil, which has friendly relations with Iran, tried to offered Ashtiani asylum but was rebuffed, making it unclear what chances – if any – the Vatican might have in persuading the Muslim nation to spare the woman's life.
According to reports, Iran has said that her sentence is not because of adultery but complicity in her husband's death.
Malek Ejdar Sharifi, head of East Azerbaijan Province's judiciary, said she was sentenced to capital punishment "for committing murder, manslaughter and adultery."
An international campaign started by Ashtiani's children has sought aid in overturning her sentence and brought attention to her case.