Senator Says “Perversion of Concept of Justice” in Iran Demonstrates Rationale in Opposing Death Penalty on World Stage
TRENTON – In a letter sent to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva last week, State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak applauded the country’s offer of political asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who was sentenced to death for the crime of adultery.
“President da Silva demonstrated extraordinary compassion and a commitment to justice in offering political asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an ex-patriot from a country with strong diplomatic ties to Brazil,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union, a staunch abolitionist whose work to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey garnered him a Memorial de Caen International Human Rights award. “I believe that Brazil’s offer of political asylum was one-hundred percent the right decision, particularly when considering the perversion of the concept of justice made by the Iranian judicial system in its sentencing of Ms. Ashtiani to death by stoning. President da Silva has said that ‘nothing justifies the state taking someone’s life,’ and I just wish more world leaders would have such an enlightened view on standing up against the death penalty.”
Senator Lesniak noted that Ms. Ashtiani was first convicted in 2006 of having “illicit relations,” with two men and was punished with 99 lashes. In a subsequent trial, she was found guilty of the crime of adultery, which in Iran carries a death sentence, despite the fact that two of the five-judge panel determined her to be not guilty for lack of evidence. Ms. Ashtiani’s case has brought international attention to Iran’s judicial system, and renewed calls from abolitionists around the globe to put an end to severe punishments such as the death penalty – especially for non-violent crimes.
“The plight of Ms. Ashtiani unfortunately is a plight shared by many Islamic women each year who are condemned to death simply based on heresay and rumor,” said Senator Lesniak. “We must continue to condemn such excessive punishment and try to sway the hearts of Iran’s leaders and other world leaders to do away with cruel and unusual methods of administering ‘justice.’ As long as countries continue to employ the death penalty – particularly in cases which absolutely do not warrant such excessiveness – true justice can never be achieved.”