An Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for committing adultery appeared last night to have been released.
Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43, was pictured at her home in Osku, north-western Iran, by the state-run Press TV channel.
The mother of two had been in prison since 2006 and was due to be executed for having an “illicit relationship outside marriage”.
She received the sentence in 2007 after being convicted of a relationship with a man who was judged to have murdered her husband.
But she only became an international emblem for the brutality of the Iranian regime earlier this year, when campaigners highlighted her plight and persuaded foreign governments to pressure Tehran over it.
Miss Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s stoning sentence was suspended after complaints from the United States, Britain, and other governments and international human rights groups.
However, the following month she appeared on Iranian television to “confess” to adultery and involvement in her husband’s murder. Her lawyer said she had been tortured beforehand.
She was then said to have been given 99 lashes after a British newspaper published a picture of a woman not wearing a veil, which it mistakenly identified as her. She later appeared on TV to deny this.
An urgent petition from campaigners was lodged with Tehran last month amid reports that she was to be hanged imminently.
Last night, however, the Anti-Stoning Committee, a German-based campaign group, said Miss Mohammadi-Ashtiani, her 22-year-old son and her lawyer had all been freed.
“We have got news from Iran that they are free,” a spokesman said. The Iranian government did not confirm the reports.
Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Minister, who lobbied for her release, hailed it as “a great day for human rights.”
“Iran has made the gesture of understanding and clemency that we were hoping for and it did so using its prerogative as a sovereign state,” he said.
The case has highlighted the poor state of human rights in Iran. According to Amnesty International, Iran executed 388 people last year, more than any other country apart from China.
Miss Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted on the basis of “judge’s knowledge”, a loophole allowing a ruling where no conclusive evidence is forthcoming.