Brazil offers asylum to Iranian woman facing stoning

By Peter Murphy Peter Murphy Sat Jul 31, 5:46 pm ET
BRASILIA (Reuters) 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.