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Canadian advocates <br/>hail &lsquo;astounding&rsquo; release <br/>of Iranian woman Add to ...

Messages from around the world suddenly came pouring into Heather Reisman’s e-mail with the good news Thursday afternoon: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who had been sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, was reportedly free.

“How great is this,” Ms. Reisman exclaimed in a telephone interview just an hour after she had received the confirmation she has been waiting for – for months. “It’s just astounding, it’s just astoundingly fabulous news.”

Since July, the chief executive of Indigo Books and Music has worked to free the 43-year-old Iranian mother of two. Immediately after hearing of the woman’s plight, Ms. Reisman launched a petition denouncing the Iranian government for its threats to execute to Ms. Ashtiani.

That petition attracted signatures from around the world – it now has just over 400,000 – including that of Laureen Harper, the Prime Minister’s wife, who has subsequently become very involved with this case.

Last month, Mrs. Harper played host to Ms. Reisman and activists at 24 Sussex Drive, the Prime Minister’s official residence, for a roundtable discussion about Ms. Ashtiani and women’s rights in Iran. In addition, the pair issued a joint letter of protest to the Iranian government when it appeared Ms. Ashtiani was about to be executed.

Ms. Reisman said this latest news confirms what “knowledgeable advocates” had told her: “Make noise, make our voices heard, make this a world effort and hold Iran” accountable on human rights.

“This is one spectacular success,” she added, “but clearly there are still many women languishing in this position.”

Ms. Reisman vowed not give up on her cause. This victory should be celebrated, she said, and then work must continue toward the goal of eliminating stoning as a legitimate punishment and women achieving true equal rights in Iran.

As Ms. Reisman spoke to The Globe, more news stories and photos of Ms. Ashtiani’s release were coming in over her BlackBerry.

“Look at her face,” she said, “how she has changed since that original picture – older, sad. Look at her eyes. Wow.”

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