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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking in neighboring Azerbaijan on Thursday, criticized foreign attention on the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was sentenced to death for adultery, and said the West needed to lift pressure on the Islamic Republic if it wanted progress in talks about its nuclear program with six world powers tentatively scheduled for next month.
“The hearing on the case of Sakineh Ashtiani is still continuing, there is no problem in the investigation,” Ahmadinejad said in Baku, according to the Azerbaijan Press Agency (APA). When he was asked if the judgment against Ashtiani would be carried out, Ahmadinejad responded that 53 women were sentenced to death in the US.
“The judgment passed there is called legal, while such a judgment in Iran is regarded as the violation of human rights. These forces seek political benefit from human-related issues. Why doesn’t anyone speak about the executions there, while much is spoken about something that has not been realized in Iran?” he said.
Two German reporters who entered Iran to interview Ashtiani’s son have been arrested, and Iranian judiciary officials announced this week they are being held on espionage charges, Reuters reports. Iran suspended Ashtiani’s stoning sentence in September after widespread international criticism, the Christian Science Monitor reported, but the death penalty is not off the table.
She was sentenced to death by two courts in 2006, though one sentence, for complicity in her husband’s murder, was commuted to a 10-year jail sentence the next year, Agence France-Presse notes. The other sentence was to death by stoning for adultery.
"There are various rumors around the Sakineh Mohammadi case and some propaganda has been seen in the media, but the truth is she that has been condemned to stoning for adultery," Iranian judiciary official Malekajdar Sharifi said, according to Reuters. "The delay in carrying out the sentence is because it is a heavy sentence and the case is going through the legal procedure and the execution of the sentence has not been ordered yet."
Ahmandinehad also said in Baku that the West must drop their “exploitative approach” and aggressive stance on Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is purely to generate electricity. "But, if they want to talk to us using old methods, then they must know that the results of negotiations will remain the same. Iran has chosen its own path. … Iran won't be scared by embargoes,” he said, the Associated Press reported.
Talks are expected to restart between Iran and the US, Russia, France, Britain, China, and Germany on Dec. 5. But they have yet to decide on a venue, the Associated Press reports, as Ahmadinejad has suggested Istanbul and the other country's want Geneva.
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week said that the latest international sanctions against Iran are hitting the country harder than its rulers had expected and should be given more time. The Associated Press adds that Gates also did not rule out military action against Iran.
Ahmadinejad’s remarks in Baku come a day after the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen gave a press conference alongside Israel Defense Forces Chief Gabi Askenazi, also saying that sanctions on Iran were taking a toll on its regime.
"The sanctions are actually taking a fairly significant bite, and that's the current path. ... [A] body of evidence that indicates that the sanctions are taking their toll much more rapidly than some had anticipated, more deeply," Mullen said, according to the Israeli Haaretz daily newspaper.