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Woman In Stoning Case Spared Death By Hanging

An Iranian lawmaker said Monday that a sentence of death by hanging has been suspended in the case of a woman originally sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery, according to state media reports. The reprieve was said to be in response to pleas from the woman's children.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was arrested and convicted of adultery in 2006 after the murder of her husband. Her plight drew global condemnation after one of her lawyers went public with the stoning sentence. The lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, was forced to flee Iran to Norway after bringing international attention to the case.

Iranian authorities suspended the stoning sentence last year, but Ashtiani also was accused of being an accomplice in her husband's murder -- a crime which also carries a penalty of death -- and sentenced to hang.

Iranian state television and news agencies reported Monday that a member of Iran's parliament, Zohre Elahian, wrote in a letter to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff that Ashtiani's latest sentence had been commuted. Brazil had offered to give Ashtiani asylum last year -- which was bluntly rejected by Tehran.

Ashtiani now faces 10 years in prison, according to the letter.

Iran executes more people than any country except China, according to Amnesty International.

Another rights group monitoring the Islamic Republic said Sunday that Iranian authorities have unleashed an "execution binge," with an average rate of one person hanged every eight hours since the beginning of the year.

"The Iranian Judiciary is on an execution binge orchestrated by the intelligence and security agencies," stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesman for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

A statement by the New York-based group said at least 47 prisoners have been hanged since Jan. 1, including a reported Kurdish activist accused of fighting against the state. It said other jailed Kurds also are at risk of facing the gallows for alleged links to a groups battling for greater rights for Iran's Kurdish minority.

Most of the others executed were convicted of violent crimes such as murder.

The group said the actual number of people put to death this year could be higher because Iranian authorities may not make public all executions. Rights groups and media reports say at least 179 people were executed in Iran last year.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reported from Istanbul for this story, which also contains material from The Associated Press

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NPR Staff and Wires