Talking to Brazil’s government news agency Agência Brasil, the Iranian ambassador in Brazilian capital Brasília, Mohsen Shaterzadeh, declared that Sakineh Ashtiani, 43, an Iranian widow who had been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, will not be allowed to leave Iran.
The ambassador said that a formal offer from Brazil of asylum or political refugee for her had not been received by the Iranian government.
Shaterzadeh explained that as the widow is an Iranian citizen there is no possibility of any other country being part of the process. The ambassador claimed that the case had become an international cause célèbre because of manipulation by the foreign media on the Internet and in the press with the objective of embarrassing the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“We have not received an official request for asylum or political refugee from Brazil. There was no exchange of anything in writing or orally, which is normal diplomatic practice,” said the ambassador.
“This is a criminal case that will be judged in accordance with Iranian codes, following the moral and cultural precepts of Iran. The case involves only Iranians, why should any other country be part of it?”
The ambassador added with great care that the Iranian position was not any form of disrespect regarding the offer by president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to have the widow sent to Brazil.
“We have enormous respect for president Lula. We believe 100% that he did not intend to interfere in internal Iranian affairs. He was moved by human sentiments and when our spokesman said what he said, he did so with total respect for Lula. It seems the comment was badly understood by the Brazilian media.”
Shaterzadeh went on to explain that at this moment the charge of adultery has been dropped and the widow is accused only of killing her husband. The ambassador did not confirm that the punishment had been modified; there were reports that instead of stoning she would be hung. The ambassador said that as the case was still ongoing, further changes could occur.
“I want to emphasize that this is not a case of adultery, but a case of murder,” declared the ambassador. “Now what I want to know is if this case took place somewhere else in the world would there be such commotion? Unfortunately, we now live in a virtual world that the media takes advantage of. This is an internal Iranian matter that does not need external interference.”
Shaterzadeh did confirm that the case of the widow had been discussed by Brazilian and Iranian diplomats in Brazil and in Iran. The ambassador said he had personally discussed the matter at various times in Brasília. In Tehran, the Brazilian ambassador, Antonio Salgado, also discussed the matter with Iranian authorities, explaining the Brazilian position.
Speaking to reporters in Rio de Janeiro, Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, declared that Brazil had in fact offered to have the widow sent to Brazil.
“Diplomats have discussed the case. Maybe he the Iranian ambassador considers his explanation, when he says the accusation is no longer adultery, but murder, an official response. The fact is that the situation of the widow, the threat of stoning, the crime she is accused of committing, all this shocks Brazilians and most people around the world. President Lula offered to have her come to Brazil to avoid the execution. Our ambassador in Tehran was instructed to convey the offer and the feelings of the Brazilian people,” said Amorim.
The widow, Ashtiani, mother of two children, was sentenced to death by stoning five years ago. She was accused of adultery. She and her family deny the accusations. Recently, her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, fled Iran and received asylum in Norway. He declared that his family was in danger as he could not take them with him.