Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday added her voice to the growing international chorus condemning what Iranian human rights activists say is expanding use of execution as almost routine punishment in Iran.
The high-profile case Secretary Clinton cited in a statement is that of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who was handed a sentence of death by stoning after she was found guilty of adultery.
The Iranian government later announced she would not face death by stoning. But Clinton said that other cases where Iranians face execution for “exercising their right to free expression” after the disputed June 2009 elections, or for homosexuality, suggest that many legal cases in Iran are not proceeding “with the transparency or due process enshrined in Iran’s own constitution.”
Both President Obama and Clinton were sharply criticized for remaining tight-lipped during the tumultuous days of public protest following Iran’s presidential election in June 2009. Human rights activists accused the Obama administration of overlooking widely broadcast evidence of rights abuses so as not to jeopardize Obama’s policy of seeking dialogue with the government in Tehran over its nuclear program.
In the president’s defense, administration officials said Obama and other policymakers were concerned that any expression of support for the election protesters could be used by the government against them.
The administration has recently insisted that the offer of dialogue is still open to Tehran, but apparently the lengthening string of showcased executions and imminent executions prompted Clinton to break the administration’s silence.
“The United States urges the Iranian government to halt these executions in accordance with its obligations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners an imprisoned human rights defenders,” Clinton said.
Last month the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, which monitors the Iranian media for death-penalty cases, reported that 135 executions were known to have been carried in Iran so far this year. The foundation listed 399 known executions in Iran in 2009, second in the world behind China (and well ahead of the US, often singled out among Western countries for the use of capital punishment, which carried out 52 last year).
Last month seven Iranians were executed on charges of drug trafficking, although rights advocates say such charges are often leveld against citizens the government is seeking to silence for other reasons.
In addition to Ms. Ashtiani, who has been in prison in Tabriz in northwestern Iran since 2005, Clinton singled out the cases of Jafa Kazemi, Mohammad Haj Aghaei, and Javad Lari, whom she said face “imminent execution” for protesting the 2009 election.