TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery could be hanged instead, the students news agency ISNA reported.
A court sentenced Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to be stoned in 2006 but the sentence was suspended last year after an international outcry. However, under a judicial review being carried out she still could be hanged.
"There is no rush ... our Islamic experts are reviewing Ashtiani's sentence to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging," said Malek Ajdar Sharifi, head of judiciary in the East Azerbaijan province.
Ashtiani's husband was murdered in 2005, after which an Iranian court convicted the mother of two of having an "illicit relationship" with two men. For this, she was given a stoning sentence in 2006.
Amnesty International says she received 99 lashes as her sentence but she was subsequently convicted of "adultery while being married," which the human rights group says she denied.
Ashtiani, arrested in 2006, is already serving 10 years for being an accessory to her husband's murder in a prison in the East Azerbaijan.
A local judiciary official said last year that the stoning of Ashtiani had been suspended due to "humanitarian reservations," but did not rule out possibility of her execution.
"The sentence of Ashtiani will be carried out as soon as our experts announce their view," the official said.
Under Islamic law in force in Iran since the 1979 revolution, adultery may be punished by death by stoning and crimes such as murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by hanging.
The European Union called Ashtiani's stoning sentence "barbaric." The Vatican pleaded for clemency and Brazil offered her asylum. The case further strained Tehran's relations with the West, already at odds over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Two reporters for German newspaper Bild am Sonntag were detained in Iran in October last year when they were interviewing Ashtiani's son without official permission, highlighting the sensitivity of the case. The two were released in February.
Iranian authorities dismiss allegations of rights abuses, saying they are following Islamic law.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary-general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, argued in December that stoning should not be classified as a method of execution but rather a method of punishment which is actually more "lenient" because half of the people survive, the U.N. quoted him as saying.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi)