U.S. Legislators Decry Stoning Executions In Iran, Reuter, February 25, 1998
WASHINGTON - U.S. lawmakers Wednesday called for international pressure on Iran to halt its practice of execution by stoning, a practice they said continues under the government of President Mohammad Khatami.
Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, and Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat, hosted the showing for lawmakers, journalists and the international diplomatic corps of a graphic videotaped execution by stoning of four prisoners in Iran in 1992.
Ros-Lehtinen said seven people, four women and three men, had been stoned to death in public during the tenure of the new Iranian president.
"This clearly shows that nothing has changed under Khatami's rule," she said.
Ackerman condemned as "savagery" the Iranian practice of execution by stoning and urged the Clinton administration to bear this in mind as it deals with Khatami.
"U.S. policy should be focused on such domestic deeds and their promotion of international terrorism, as well as their opposition to the Middle East peace process, rather than adhering to the vague words of reform coming from Khatami," he said.
The tape shows prisoners bound in sheets, buried to their waists and then stoned by a chanting crowd that the National Council of Resistance of Iran described as the Islamic government's Republican Guard. It said the person who read the verdicts and threw the first stone was Ali Razini, a senior clergyman at the time who now heads the Justice Department.
The exiled opposition group said the smuggled tape appeared to have been filmed by a government official since there was no attempt to stop the filming. In it, the prisoners are shown bloody and mutilated as they make futile attempts to free themselves from the semi-grave.
The group has been showing the tape around the world to highlight its concerns about the continued lack of human rights in Iran despite the stated commitment to reform of Khatami.
The State Department's annual human rights report issued in late January noted that Iran's human rights record remains poor despite Khatami's election. It charged that the Iranian government had engaged in summary executions, extra judicial killings, disappearances and widespread use of torture.
At the same time, the European Union recently ended its freeze on high-level contacts with the Islamic republic and announced that Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini will visit Iran next week.