OSLO, Norway – OSLO, Norway (AP) — The lawyer defending a woman sentenced to death by stoning in Iran said on Sunday that he has applied for asylum in Norway, but hopes Iranian authorities will allow him eventually to return to his practice.
Mohammad Mostafaei told reporters he chose to flee to Norway after obtaining a one-year Norwegian travel visa. He also cited the Nordic country's prominent human rights profile.
The 31-year-old said he fled to Turkey last week after learning Iranian officials intended to arrest him. He flew to Norway Saturday after being detained briefly in Turkey over an undisclosed passport issue.
Mostafaei maintained a blog that sparked a worldwide campaign to free his client, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was convicted 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 her conviction of adultery and other offenses.
While Mostafaei is applying for asylum, it's unclear whether he will stay in Norway. He said he hopes international pressure will force Tehran to let him return to his practice.
"My greatest hope is that I can go back and continue my work in Iran. If the Iranian authorities will ensure my rights and safety, I'll go back," Mostafaei said through an interpreter. "Right now, I've lost the ability to work on the behalf of my clients. That means I've lost everything. Without that, it doesn't matter whether I'm in heaven or hell."
Late last month, Mostafaei — an outspoken lawyer who also has defended many juvenile offenders and political prisoners — was summoned for questioning by judicial officials at Tehran's Evin prison, released after several hours, then asked to return, which he failed to do. The same day, his wife, Fereshteh Halimi, and her brother, Farhad Halimi, were detained in a possible attempt to pressure Mostafaei to surrender if he wasn't already detained.
The lawyer said he considered turning himself in, but ultimately decided against it because "my wife would never forgive me."
Mostafaei said a friend drove him last week from Tehran to Khoy, in northwestern Iran, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the Turkish border. From there he made his way, by foot and on horseback, into Turkey, he said.
Authorities released his wife Saturday afternoon, Mostafaei said. He said he hoped she and their 7-year-old daughter would join him in Norway soon. He acknowledged, however, that "might take some time because the government may try to prevent their departure."
He said once his wife arrives, they will decide together if and for how long they plan to stay in Norway.