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Brazil offers asylum to Iranian woman facing stoning

August 1st, 2010

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has called on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to allow a woman sentenced in Iran to death by stoning to accept an offer of asylum in Brazil, local media reported.

The sentence imposed on Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for an extra-marital relationship, which she denies, has caused an international outcry. It has been suspended pending a review by Iran’s judiciary but could still be carried out.

“I call on the supreme leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to permit Brazil to grant asylum to this woman,” state radio reported him as saying on Saturday.

The two nations have drawn closer this year after Brazil pioneered diplomatic efforts backing Iran’s uranium enrichment work, which Tehran says it needs to produce power and for medical purposes. Many Western nations believe it is a front for developing a nuclear bomb.

Human rights group Amnesty International said Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men and received 99 lashes as her sentence.

Despite this, the rights group said she was subsequently convicted of “adultery while being married,” which it said she denied, and for which she was sentenced to death by stoning.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and international human rights groups appealed for a stay of execution.

Earlier this week, in response to an online campaign in Brazil calling on him to intervene, Lula said he could not call on other leaders to disregard the laws of their country.

But his comments on Saturday suggested he was willing to use his strengthened ties with Ahmadinejad to push for clemency for Mohammadi Ashtiani.

“If my friendship with the president of Iran is worth anything and if she is causing unease there, we will willingly receive her here,” Agencia Folha reported Lula as saying, adding he said he would call his Iranian counterpart to discuss it.

Lula was speaking during an electoral campaign event for his party’s chosen presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff.

Lula will complete his second term in December and cannot run a third consecutive time in the elections due on October 3.

By Peter Murphy

(Editing by Eric Beech)

http://www.reuters.com


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