An Iranian lawyer, who is defending a woman facing death by stoning for having an extra marital affair, has sought asylum in Norway. Mohammad Mostafaei came to the country after reaching Turkey last week in a journey by car, on horseback and on foot.
Mostafaei is representing Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, who has been sentenced to death for committing adultery. The Iranian woman’s case has sparked outrage across the Western world and her sentence has been suspended pending a review.
Mr Mostafaei says his wife, Fereshteh and her brother were jailed by Iranian authorities who are attempting to pressure the lawyer to return to his home country for questioning. He has already spoken to the authorities once but failed to turn up when his attendance was requested for a second time.
Mr Mostafaei, who fled Iran on July 24, said his wife would not forgive him if he turned himself in. He added that she has since been freed and plans to join him in Norway.
While in Turkey, the lawyer obtained a one-year travel visa for Norway, and the Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Store said he is pleased Mr Mostafaei has reached safety. Speaking to Reuters news agency, Mr Gahr Store said, “We remain concerned and focused on the fate of other human rights defenders inside Iran, and obviously their clients.”
Mr Mostafaei said it is heartbreaking to have to abandon his cases. “I’ve lost the ability to work on behalf of my clients. That means I’ve lost everything. Without that, it doesn’t matter whether I’m in heaven or hell,” he told Reuters.
Iran’s judiciary head, Sadeq Larijani has temporarily halted Ashtiani’s death sentence, although she may still be hanged for her so-called crimes.