The son of an Iranian woman who faces death by stoning for adultery said authorities have imposed a new sentence of 99 lashes.
He said the sentence came after The Times of London ran a picture of an unveiled woman and mistakenly identified it as his mother.
Sajjad Qaderzadeh, 22, said today he did not know whether the sentence had been carried out.
The Times corrected the photo caption that identified the unveiled woman in the picture as 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.
“Publishing the photo provided a judge an excuse to sentence my poor mother to 99 lashes on the charge of taking a picture unveiled,” said Qaderzadeh.
Iran has delayed the stoning sentence after an international outcry.
The Vatican hinted that it may use behind-the-scenes diplomacy in a bid to save her life.
In its first public statement on the case, the Vatican condemned stoning yesterday as a particularly brutal form of capital punishment.
Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi said the Catholic Church opposed the death penalty in general.
It is unclear what chances any Vatican bid would have to persuade the Muslim nation to spare the woman’s life. Brazil, which has friendly relations with Iran, was rebuffed when it offered her asylum.
Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of adultery. In July Iranian authorities said they would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time being, but the mother of two could still face execution by hanging for adultery and other offences.
Sajad told Italian news agency Adnkronos that he was appealing to Pope Benedict XVI and to Italy to work to stop the execution.
Mr Lombardi said no formal appeal had reached the Vatican but he hinted that diplomacy might be employed to try to save Ms Ashtiani.
Mr Lombardi said the Holy See “is following the case with attention and interest”.
“When the Holy See is asked, in an appropriate way, to intervene in humanitarian issues with the authorities of other countries, as it has happened many times in the past, it does so not in a public way, but through its own diplomatic channels,” Mr Lombardi said in a statement.
There was no official confirmation of the new sentence. The son, Sajjad Qaderzadeh said he heard about the sentence from a prisoner who had recently left the Tabriz prison where his mother is being held.
The lawyer who once represented Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in Iran said from Paris that the situation was not clear.
The Times said in today’s edition it had apologised for the photo, but added that the new sentence “is simply a pretext.”
“The regime’s purpose is to make Ms Ashtiani suffer for an international campaign to save her that has exposed so much iniquity,” said the piece.
Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of having an “illicit relationship” with two men after the death of her husband a year earlier and was sentenced by a court back then to 99 lashes.
Later that year, she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death, even though she retracted a confession that she claims was made under duress.
Iran suspended that sentence in July, but now says she has been convicted of involvement in her husband’s killing and she could still be executed by hanging.
Her former lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, told a news conference in Paris that it was not at all certain if there really had been a new conviction and sentence over the photograph.
“I have contacted my former colleagues at the court who told me nothing was clear on this situation,” he said following a news conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. “There isn’t any punishment for this act in our law.”
Kouchner called the sentence to death by stoning “the height of barbarism” and said her case has become a “personal cause,” and he was “ready to do anything to save her. If I must go to Tehran to save her, I’ll go to Tehran.”
Ashtiani’s two children remain in Iran and her son is a ticket seller for a bus company in the northern Iranian city of Tabriz. He said he and his younger sister Farideh, 18, have not seen their mother since early August.
The stoning sentence has prompted international outcry over the past months with both Brazil and Italy asking Iran to show flexibility in the case.