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Europe

EU welcomes suspension of Iranian woman's stoning sentence

The EU has welcomed Iran's decision to suspend a sentence of death by stoning for a woman charged with adultery. In Sweden, the Iranian ambassador was summoned to Stockholm to assert the government's concerns.

Anti-stoning demonstration in Berlin

Ashtiani's case has led to protests in the West

European Union officials welcomed Iran's decision to suspend the stoning sentence on a woman charged with adultery, but said that it all charges should now be dropped against her.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two has been convicted of adultery in Iran and faced a sentence of death by stoning. Ashtiani's case has drawn criticism from much of the international community.

Iran's foreign ministry announced the decision to suspend the sentence in a statement released on Wednesday. The EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, described it as "a step in the right direction."

However it is unclear whether Ashtiani still faces the death penalty, or if the sentence could be applied at a later date.

Ashtiani's defense lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei

Ashtiani's defense lawyer has fled to Europe

Earlier on Wednesday, the European Parliament increased pressure on Iran to drop Ashtiani's sentence by passing a resolution condemning it.

The legislative resolution condemning Tehran won by a vote of 658-to-1 in Strasbourg.

'Disgusting form of punishment'

In Sweden, the Iranian ambassador was summoned to Stockholm over the Ashtiani case.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Swedish public radio that the government condemned the sentence.

"We are against capital punishment in any case, but stoning is a particularly disgusting form of capital punishment, and Iran should realise that this is completely unacceptable," Bildt said.

The minister argued that the international uproar over the case had had "influence."

"If we had not acted as we have over these past months, she would have presumably been killed by stoning by now," he said.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (AP/dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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