The head of the Iranian judiciary has suspended a sentence of stoning to death against a woman for adultery, the Tehran press reported on Monday.
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, was convicted by one court of adultery, which is punished by stoning to death, while another court sentenced her to 90 lashes.
The sentence provoked an international outcry with several Western countries and human rights organizations calling on Iran to revise it.
An official in East Azerbaijan province said that due to an order by judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani the sentence has been suspended for the time being and would not be implemented.
Provincial judiciary head Malek Ajdar Sharifi, however, said that the woman was not only convicted of adultery but also of killing her husband in 2006.
Mr. Sharifi added that opponents of the sentence would not be so critical if they saw the scene of the murder.
He said that the judiciary would not submit to international pressure.
Stoning is imposed mainly as punishment for offences related to illegitimate sex, such as adultery.
Iran’s judiciary once ordered the courts to halt stoning sentences due to negative international impact and to use alternative punishments instead, but some courts continue to issue the sentence, especially in the provinces.
During the stoning, men are buried up to their waist and women up to their necks and then stones are thrown against their head and body until they die.
But if a person manages to escape from the hole, they are acquitted and free to go.