Son of Iranian woman sentenced to stoning appeals to pope

Rome (dpa) – The son of an Iranian woman who has been sentenced to death by stoning after being found guilty of adultery has appealed to the pope to intervene on his mother’s behalf, Radio Vatican reported on Sunday.

Sajjad Ghaderzadeh made the direct appeal to Pope Benedict XVI on behalf of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, asking for “an intervention to save the life of my mother.”

The last-minute appeal, which was also addressed to the Italian government, was broadcast by the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI). The agency had previously become involved in the case with a campaign titled Fiori e non pietre – Flowers, not stones – involving, among others, footballer Francesco Totti.

The Holy See did not rule out an intervention via diplomatic channels.

“The Vatican has been opposed to the death penalty for years and stoning is a particularly gruesome form thereof,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.

But Lombardi noted that the Vatican, when it tried to intervene in important humanitarian affairs in other countries tends to work within diplomatic, not public, channels.

Ghaderzadeh also expressed appreciation for the international attention to his mother’s case in his appeal. He said he had also contacted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomenei, but had received no answer from either.

The case of Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43, drew international criticism following her conviction for adultery and alleged involvement in her husband’s murder.

Her lawyer, who has since fled to Norway, and activists said she was forced into a televised “confession.”

Last week, Iranian media lashed out at French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy for criticizing the stoning sentence against Mohammadi- Ashtiani, referring to Bruni-Sarkozy as “immoral” and a “prostitute.”

Both the French and Iranian governments condemned those statements.