ST. VINCENT: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has appealed to President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to have mercy on Sakineh Mohammad Ashtiani, the Iranian woman facing a possible sentence of death by stoning for adultery.
Gonsalves first asked Ahmadinejad to have mercy in a letter of August 8 and raised the issue with the Middle Eastern leader in New York last week.
A release from St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN) said Gonsalves, during a meeting with Ahmadinejad last week, repeated his call for Ahmadinejad to exercise his prerogative of mercy.
The release said Gonsalves explained that he was not challenging the Iranian morality, system of justice or jurisprudence but reminded the Iranian leader that all systems of justice make provisions for mercy and clemency to be granted.
Gonsalves restated his case to reporters in Kingstown on Monday, Sept 27.
I am not questioning their jurisprudence. I have my private view of that. What I am asking for is mercy because every religious system, every judicial system has mercy in it,” Gonsalves said. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)
Has said Ahmadinejad had informed him that the case has not run its course and hence making mercy a premature consideration.
“That may be so but I registered my concern directly in a letter. Incidentally, I am the only [Caribbean Community] leader who has done that. The other man in the western hemisphere who has done it is [President Luiz Inácio] Lula ] da Silva] of Brazil and I spoke to president Ahmadinejad about it,” Gonsalves said.
“Of course, he offers his own defence — well not defence, explanation. Because I don’t think he has anything to defend. The trial is not yet completed and she is not only on trial for adultery but she is on trial also in relation to conspiring to murder her husband. Now, I am not sure about that aspect of it,” Gonsalves said.
He said he has read various account of what the accused woman allegedly did, adding, “I can’t sit and see somebody being stoned to death, a woman being stoned to death and don’t raise my voice of concern.”
“I know him (Ahmadinejad), I met him, I took a message from the Pope to him. His government has given us money for the international airport. But, it doesn’t mean that because you have done that that I will not open my mouth and comment about something about which I feel it. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
“I picture that woman where she is in her cell; not knowing what is going to happen to her. Because, they have their judicial system, I am not commenting adversely on their judicial system. It is not in my place so to do. I am addressing the issue of mercy. And, anybody who know me will know the fact that I have a working relationship with you, or even if I have a friendship with you, it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to talk to you about something which may be unpleasant for you to hear but which is important to my conscience,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves has been criticised at home for warming relationship between Kingstown and Teran.
He, however, said his government does not support certain position adopted by Iran. Gonsalves said Israel has a right to exists and that the Palestinians must have their “independent state, independent homeland”.
“Not that I want to be drawn into the mire of Palestinian/Israeli politics because it may be a minefield,” he said, adding that Kingstown adopts the formal position elaborated by the UN.
The release from SVG’s UN mission said that Ahmadinejad, during the meeting last week, thanked Gonsalves for his concern and cited the case of American Teresa Lewis, a mentally challenged woman who cheated on her husband and participated in his murder.
Lewis was executed in Virginia on September 23. Ahmadinejad drew parallels between the American and Iranian cases, and questioned the relative lack of outrage on behalf of the western media regarding Lewis.