World News

Iranian lawyer in stoning case flees to Norway

OSLO (Reuters) - An Iranian lawyer who defended a woman facing death by stoning in Iran said on Sunday he had fled to Norway to seek protection from his country’s authorities.

Human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, 37, disappeared from Tehran on July 24 after questioning by Iranian authorities, and his wife and brother-in-law were later arrested, according to an Amnesty International report.

An outspoken critic of the Iranian judicial system, Mostafaei told an Oslo news conference through an interpreter he had represented hundreds of clients, including juveniles facing the death penalty.

“But what was my reward for this? It was an arrest order against me and the arrest of my wife and the brother of my wife, when they could not get me,” he said.

He said he went to Norway because he had a visitor’s visa and received help from the Norwegian embassy in Turkey after fleeing there by car, horseback and on foot.

One of Mostafaei’s clients is Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman who faces punishment by stoning for alleged adultery -- an accusation she denies -- in a case that has provoked widespread international condemnation.

Mostafaei said he went to Turkey a week ago after the Iranian authorities jailed his wife, Fereshteh, and her brother.

He said his wife was freed on Saturday and he expected her and their 7-year-old daughter to travel eventually to Norway.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Iran’s sharia law, enforced since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

On Sunday Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said he was pleased Mostafaei had reached safety.

“But we remain concerned and focused on the fate of other human rights defenders inside Iran, and obviously their clients,” he told Reuters.

Editing by Andrew Dobbie