Hope to save man who survived botched hanging

October 20, 2013 - 12:58:02 am

Tehran: Hopes have been raised for the life of the Iranian man who survived a hanging only to be condemned to be re-executed, after one of the country’s oldest and most respected Islamic scholars appeared to question the ruling.

The extraordinary case of Alireza M, a 37-year-old father of two who was convicted of drug smuggling three years ago, has caused controversy around the world and divided Iranians. He is in hospital in Bojnurd, in Iran’s Khorasan province, not far from the prison where he was hanged by the neck for 12 minutes earlier this month.

Morgue assistants later that day saw condensation on the inside of the plastic shroud around his body and realised he was still breathing. But even as his family, including his two daughters, celebrated the “miracle”, Iran’s judiciary stated that as Alireza — his full name has not been released — had been sentenced to death, rather than to hanging, he should be re-executed as soon as he is well enough to walk back to the gallows.

One senior judge, Nourollah Aziz-Mohammadi, said that the law required that the convict must die. “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.”

Among the arguments was a fatwa, or ruling, from the religious writings of grand ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, a sharia law expert, which stated that execution was viable even after a convict had come back to life.

But now the 94-year-old ayatollah has posted an oblique reference to the case on his website, suggesting that, as it concerns a case of drug smuggling, not among crimes seen as an act against God, his earlier fatwa need not apply. The statement simply ran: “The issue that has been raised in [his writings] has nothing to do with [this man’s] case and the ayatollah has another view about his issue.” Human rights activists, already concerned about Iran’s high rate of executions, say Alireza should be spared under international law, which forbids “cruel and unusual punishment”. 

There are also concerns that Iran is botching hundreds of executions, leaving people to die slow, agonising deaths, because the sheer volume of killings being carried out means they are not being done “professionally”.

According to Amnesty International, at least 508 people may have been executed in Iran this year. Guardian News