Photo of Lula da Silva holding up a picture of Ashtiani in a Brazilian newspaper. Image posted on Flickr by "Avazoorg", 12 Aug. 2010.

An Iranian woman who may be stoned to death for adultery charges has attracted worldwide attention, including that of Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva. Will it help her? Quite the opposite, one of our Tehran Observers explains.

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, is accused of having relations with other men and then accompanying one of her lovers in murdering her husband. Adultery and murder are both punishable by death under Sharia law, enforced in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

While Ashtiani was originally sentenced to death by stoning, the ruling has now been suspended pending judicial review (it could still go ahead). The woman's lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, says that the Iranian judiciary put the case on hold due to international pressure. He has since fled the country and a warrant been issued for his arrest.

The Iranian authorities also rejected an offer from President Lula da Silva on July 31 of asylum for Ashtiani in Brazil. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that Lula da Silva was not well informed on the case, according to the state news agency, Agencia Brasil. 

“The stoning debate is an issue for the people of Iran, not the president of Brazil”

Alireza is an artist and journalist from Tehran.

Lula da Silva's gesture will not be useful to Ashtiani. What he's done here is for his own gains, either with his own people, or the international community, or in some way for his relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is not going to help Ashtiani — because while Lula has a decent relationship with the president, the president does not have a good relationship with the Iranian judiciary, and no power over it either. The judiciary is a separate entity here, and it's there where Ashtiani's fate will be decided.

The people of Iran are not appreciative of Lula's gesture either. As far as they're concerned, death by stoning is a debate for them, not for the president of far-flung Brazil, who they barely know of.

People like Salman Rushdie and liberal European politicians have not helped either. All this attention has pushed the regime to put Ashtiani on TV, supposedly confessing to the murder of her husband, endangering her case further. That wouldn't have happened if the whole world hadn't started interfering. 

The only people that can really help Ashtiani are those who have been here for years campaigning against capital punishment and helping others sentenced with it. We have hundreds of executions here each year. Why Lula da Silva suddenly decided to involve himself in this case and not all the others, I honestly don't know. As far as I can see, it's a political game between Brazil and Iran, and won't do any favours for Ashtiani."