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Lawyer in Iran stoning case seeks asylum in Turkey

An officer for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees [official website] said Wednesday said that lawyer Mohammad Mostafei, who is defending a woman sentenced to death in Iran, is seeking asylum in Turkey after fleeing Iran following alleged harassment [AI release] by Iranian officials. Mostafei is currently being held [Radikal report, in Turkish] by Turkey for illegally entering the country. Mostafei was representing Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning after being found guilty of adultery based on what she claimed to be a coerced confession. Mohammadi-Ashtiani's sentence prompted international calls for a reduction of her sentence [HRW release]. Iran has temporarily suspended Ashtiani's stoning sentence, but has signaled that it will reject an offer by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva [official profile] to grant Mohammadi-Ashtiani political asylum [NYT report].

Iran's human rights record continues to draw a significant criticism. In December 2009, an Amnesty International [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; JURIST report] called the actions of government forces during the civil unrest that followed the controversial 2009 presidential election some of the worst human rights abuses in the last 20 years [AI release] The Iranian government announced [JURIST report] that it had abandoned the use of stoning in August 2008 when it commuted the sentences of four people convicted of adultery and sexual offenses [BBC report]. The move came in response to intense pressure [AI release] from Western human rights groups.

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