Fate of Iran convict who survived gallows in balance
(AFP) Iran's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, faced competing calls on Thursday whether to spare a convicted drug trafficker who survived the gallows.
The prisoner, identified only as Alireza M, 37, was pronounced dead by the attending doctor after spending 12 minutes hanging from the noose suspended from a crane in a jail in northeastern Iran.
But the following day, staff at the mortuary in the city of Bojnourd where his shrouded body was taken discovered to their shock that he was still breathing.
He is now recovering in hospital while jurists argue over whether the law requires that he be taken to the gallows a second time.
Amnesty International called for an immediate stay of execution for Alireza M and for all other death row prisoners in Iran, which carried out more executions last year than any other country except China.
"The horrific prospect of this man facing a second hanging, after having gone through the whole ordeal already once, merely underlines the cruelty and inhumanity of the death penalty," the watchdog's Middle East and North Africa programme director Philip Luther said.
"The Iranian authorities must immediately halt Alireza M's execution and issue a moratorium on all others," Luther said.
"Carrying out a second execution on a man who somehow managed to survive 12 minutes of hanging ... is simply ghastly."
Iranian jurists were divided over what should be done.
One high-ranking judge, Nourollah Aziz-Mohammadi, told the Iran newspaper the law required that the convict be put to death, and that he should be taken to the gallows a second time.
"When a convict is sentenced to death, he must die after the sentence is carried out," Aziz-Mohammadi said.
"Now that he is alive, we can say the sentence was not carried out and must be repeated."
But other lawyers signed a petition to the judiciary chief appealing for a stay in the exceptional case.
"In our law, nothing has been said about a person who survives hanging after 24 hours," one signatory, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, told the paper.
"Since the sentence was carried out, there is no reason to repeat the sentence."
Shargh newspaper quoted a former judge as saying that the same rules should apply as when a person survives a sentence of being stoned to death.
"A condemned person who survives should not be sent again for execution," the daily quoted ex-judge Mohammad Hossein Shamlou as saying.
Under Iran's interpretation of Islamic Sharia law in force since its 1979 revolution, adultery is punished by the stoning of convicted adulterers.
Women are buried up to their shoulders, but men only up to their waists. They are spared if they manage to free themselves before dying.
The sentence is rarely carried out however and the last reported case of stoning was in 2009, when a man was stoned to death in the northern city of Rasht.
The ISNA news agency, meanwhile, said that legal authorities were also seeking the advice of senior clerics on Alireza M's case.
Iran put to death more than 500 people last year, according to Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International said 508 people have already been executed in the country so far this year.