Reuters: An Iranian official says he is waiting for orders on whether to stone or hang a woman convicted of adultery, the latest in a chain of death sentences passed against young women for "fornication". The official from Iran's conservative judiciary said on Saturday that Hajieh Esmailvand's prison sentence, that began in January 2000, would end in less ... Reuters

TEHRAN - An Iranian official says he is waiting for orders on whether to stone or hang a woman convicted of adultery, the latest in a chain of death sentences passed against young women for "fornication".

The official from Iran's conservative judiciary said on Saturday that Hajieh Esmailvand's prison sentence, that began in January 2000, would end in less than a month -- a jail term in the northern city of Jolfa that was always intended as a precursor to execution.

"Her (death) sentence is approved by the Supreme Court, but there are no orders to carry out the sentence. We do not yet know if it is by stoning or hanging," he told Reuters.

Hanging is the most usual death penalty in Iran but some adulterers have been stoned.

Stoning has sparked scathing international criticism, with victims being buried up to their midriffs and then pelted to death with medium-size stones that should not be so large as to kill instantly.

One of the country's most controversial banned novels is "The Stoning of Soraya M", centring on a brutal miscarriage of justice meted out to a woman in rural Iran.

Nineteen-year-old "Leila M" in the central city of Arak is appealing to overturn a death sentence for fornication, her lawyer told Reuters earlier this week.

The lawyer said Leila had been forced into prostitution by her mother aged eight but rejected newspaper reports that she had a mental age of eight.

Atefeh Rajabi, believed by lawyers and diplomats who saw her death certificate to have been only 16, was hanged in August in the Caspian Sea port of Neka for sex before marriage.

Iranian officials insisted she was in her early 20s.