An Iranian woman sentenced to death for committing adultery will likely have her sentence changed from stoning to hanging, but this is not a gesture of mercy, nor do Iranian officials want to portray it as a concession to Western critics. Instead, the reason prison officials gave for changing the sentence of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was that the prison in East Azerbaijan province didn't have the "necessary facilities" for a stoning. That seems odd -- don't stonings just require a lot of rocks and an angry crowd? It's a little more involved than that, we're reminded by Slate's excellent explainer on the topic last year. Certain people such as court officials and witnesses in the case must throw the stones, and the stones must be a certain size (about that of a tangerine), but the only facility required is a patch of dirt in which to bury the convict to her chest. So despite the prison facilities excuse, many see the decision to reconsider the punishment as a victory for those putting pressure on Iran's government. Anti-stoning activist Mina Ahadi told The Guardian, "I believe they are testing the water."
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