Iranian newspaper reiterates derogatory remarks about French first lady

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 1:18 PM

TEHRAN - An influential Iranian state-run newspaper on Tuesday reiterated and expanded on its earlier derogatory remarks about French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, spurring Iran's Foreign Ministry to warn news media to refrain from insulting foreign dignitaries.

The Kayhan daily first called Bruni-Sarkozy "a prostitute" on Saturday. The paper repeated that remark Tuesday and added that the first lady, a former model and pop star, "deserves to die" because of her "perverted lifestyle" and her public support for an Iranian woman who has been sentenced to death by stoning.

The comments angered the French Foreign Ministry, which called them "unacceptable." Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, responded by urging the national news media to use restraint and avoid "indecent words."

"The media can properly criticize the wrong and hostile policies of other countries by refraining from using insulting words. This is not correct," Mehmanparast said.

But the repeated allegations by the paper, which is headed by a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, indicate that hard-liners have launched an offensive against the mounting international criticism over the Islamic republic's controversial capital punishments and family laws, Iranian activists say.

Bruni-Sarkozy is an international figure who married French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 and has had relationships with people such as Mick Jagger, Kevin Costner and Eric Clapton. In 2007, she told a French magazine she became easily "bored with monogamy."

Bruni-Sarkozy published an open letter in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death. Ashtiani is awaiting execution, but according to a statement by the Iranian Embassy in London, she will be hanged instead of stoned.

"Spill your blood, deprive your children of their mother? Why? Because you have lived? Because you have loved? Because you are a woman? An Iranian? Every part of me refuses to accept this," Bruni-Sarkozy wrote in her letter to Ashtiani.

Key elements of the case against Ashtiani are in dispute. She originally pleaded guilty in May 2006 to having an illicit relationship with two men after the death of her husband and received 99 lashes as punishment. Four months later, when a separate court prosecuted one of the two men on charges of killing her husband, she was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning.

Iranian authorities subsequently said Ashtiani had committed murder. Earlier this month, she confessed on state-run television that she had been an accomplice in her husband's murder and had committed adultery with his cousin. But her attorney said she made the statements under duress after being tortured for two days, and she told London's Guardian newspaper through an intermediary that Iranian officials were lying about the murder charge.

"I was found guilty of adultery and was acquitted of murder," the paper quoted her as saying.

On Sunday, Iran's judiciary issued a statement condemning international interference in the case and asserting that in 2005 Ashtiani had conducted an extramarital affair and drugged and electrocuted her husband with her new lover.

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