In the latest development in the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, Iranian state television has broadcast confessions by the woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, as well as her son, lawyer, and two foreign journalists.
The programme attempted to cast Mina Ahadi, an activist for the German-based International Committee Against Stoning as the villain of the piece, for her role in spreading the story around the world.
In her third television appearance since the case drew world attention, Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, said that she was guilty of the murder of her husband -- a crime of which she was previously acquitted in court. "I am a sinner," she said. In the past, she has said that she made confessions under duress.
It also featured her 22 year old son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh, and her lawyer, Houton Kian, who were both arrested last month.
Her son said:
He [Kian] told me to say she [Mohammadi Ashtiani] was tortured ... Unfortunately, I listened to him and told lies to the foreign media.
I'm full of regret. I think if I had not known the two lawyers ... the case would have gone through its normal course.
Kian repeated this:
Telling lies to foreign media was my recommendation to Sajjad.
It is a sad reversal Qaderzadeh, who fearlessly spoke out about his mother's case, despite the awareness that it could lead to his imprisonment and torture. Back in August, he said: "Our last option was to ask people of the world to help us."
Two Germans arrested last month while allegedly trying to interview Mohammadi Ashtiani's family also appeared. They both reiterated the accusation against Ahadi, an Iranian human rights activist living in exile in Germany.
I didn't know anything about this issue. But Ms. (Mina) Ahadi knew about it and since she could benefit from the propaganda on my arrest, she sent me to Iran.
I will surely file a complaint against her when I return to Germany.
The other concurred:
I agree that I made a mistake because I was unaware and I was deceived by Ms. Ahadi.
It's been confirmed that the two journalists -- identified only as a reporter and a photographer -- will be charged with spying. They have been held without charge since 10 October.
It is likely that these "confessions" are the attempt of the Iranian government to counter the international outcry over the case. Blaming western powers for stirring up conflict is a default position for Tehran, as we saw during the democracy protests in 2008. Indeed, in light of this belligerent position, and Iran's already fraught relationship with the international community, it is vital that international pressure is executed carefully. That there has been a delay in carrying out Mohammadi Ashtiani's sentence is positive; but the imprisonment and subsequent parading of her relatives and associates shows a distressing -- yet all too consistent -- repression of dissent.