Forgiveness not vengeance shown to Iranian murderer

The execution of an Iranian murderer was halted when his victim’s mother spared him, with his neck already in the noose

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Balal Abdullah stabbed and killed Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during an argument when both young men were in their late teens.

Now in his 20s, Abdullah was sentenced to death by public hanging. Iranian penal law hands responsibility for the final sentencing to the victim’s families, an interpretation of the sharia ruling on retribution or “qisas” – eye-for-an-eye punishment. Families are encouraged to actively participate in executions, often by pushing away the chair beneath the hanged person’s feet.

Instead, when the execution day arrived in April, Hosseinzadeh’s mother slapped her son’s killer across the face and forgave him. In dramatic scenes, Hosseinzadeh’s father removed the noose, and his wife and Abdullah’s mother embraced.

The family had previously deferred the execution, and Mr Hosseinzadeh reported his wife had dreamt she had seen her son in a “good place”, where he encouraged her “not to retaliate.”

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“There are many families who pardon the murderers so as not to be part of the murder machine,” said Dr Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, an expert on Iranian human rights.

“This is probably one of the most inhumane parts of the Iranian penal code, that converts victims of violence to murderers,” he said, referring to acts of retribution.

According to the organisation Iran Human Rights, the number of the executions in 2013 in Iran was the highest in more than 15 years.

“We should keep in mind that the Iranian authorities use the death penalty as a political instrument to spread fear in society,” said Amiry-Moghaddam.