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The stoning saga continues: lawyer given refuge in Norway; wife leaves jail.

The lawyer for the Tabriz woman sentenced to die by stoning has fled Iran and been given asylum in Norway.

Attorney Mohammad Mostafai, 35, fled Iran last month after he learned that the authorities had arrested his wife and brother-in-law and were holding them hostage to induce him to surrender. But after Mostafai got out of the country, the government first released his brother-in-law and then freed his wife, in effect conceding defeat.

In an interview after he crossed the border into Turkey, Mostafai told Radio Farda he had been summoned to Evin prison July 24 to be questioned by Prosecutor Shahid Moghdas. He said the questions focused on his legal work, asking why he was helping juvenile offenders sentenced to death and why he provided his legal services free to some clients. After three hours, Mostafai said, he was allowed to leave.

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It appears he was not questioned about his most famous client, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman sentenced to death by stoning in a case that has transfixed the world and mobilized women around the globe to

Later that same day, Mostafai said he went to his office where he was told the police had visited earlier to arrest him. A few hours after that, he learned that his wife, Fereshteh, and her brother had been arrested.

Mostafai then went into hiding. Several days later, he said he learned his wife and brother-in-law would not be freed until he gave himself up. He then decided to flee. By car, horseback and foot, he crossed into Turkey, making it to the city of Van. There he contacted a human rights group, which took him to Istanbul to apply for asylum.

But the Turkish authorities arrested him, saying there was a problem with his passport--an understatement since he had no Turkish entry stamp, just like most of the estimated million Iranians who have walked across the border since the revolution.

American and Norwegian diplomats intervened on his behalf. He was soon released and allowed to fly on to Oslo.

On arrival in Norway, he told reporters he had chosen Norway because of the assistance its embassy offered and because he was swiftly issued a visitor's visa for Norway.

He said he hoped that his wife, who was freed after 15 days at Evin, and their seven-year-old daughter would be allowed to come to Oslo. He said he telephoned his wife after hearing she was free and "we had nothing to say to each other besides crying."

Mostafai said he is applying for asylum in Norway but doesn't know if he will stay. He said he and his wife will decide what they will do after she gets to Oslo.

"My greatest hope is that I can go back and continue my work in Iran," he said. "If the authorities will ensure my rights and safety, I'll go back."
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Aug 13, 2010
Words:480
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