x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Iranian man who survived botched execution condemned to hang for second time

After dangling from a rope for 12 minutes, the man was declared dead by a doctor and taken to a prison morgue, but was still breathing when his family went to collect his body the following day.

An Iranian man has been condemned to hang for a second time after he survived a botched execution.

The 37-year-old, identified only as Alireza M, was hanged in Bojnourd prison in Iran’s northern Khorasan province last week for drugs offences.

After dangling from a rope for 12 minutes, he was declared dead by a doctor and taken to the prison morgue. But when his family went to collect his body the following day, they noticed he was still breathing and rushed him to hospital where he is being held under armed guard.

His two daughters were “very happy” he had survived, Iranian media reported. But their joy was short-lived: a judge promptly said their father would be executed again “once medical staff confirm his health is good enough”.

Amnesty International has called for his second execution to be stopped. “This is simply ghastly. It betrays a basic lack of humanity that sadly underpins much of Iran’s justice system,” said Philip Luther, the organisation’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“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,” he added.

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.

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.”

Iran has the world’s highest rate of executions per capita and puts to death more people annually than any nation except China.

Already this year, Iran is believed to have executed at least 508 people, including 221 cases that have not been officially confirmed, Amnesty International said. The majority of those executed were convicted of drug offences.

At least 125 people have been executed in Iran since the country’s moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, took office in early August. He had vowed to end the repression of the previous regime, but human rights groups have said executions have actually increased under his rule.

Iran’s hardline judiciary is independent of his government. Some human-rights activists suspect the surge in executions may be an attempt by Mr Rouhani’s hardline opponents to embarrass him. He is striving to improve relations with the West and to resolve the decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

mtheodoulou@thenational.ae with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse