The young Iranian man who escaped a hangman’s noose when his victim’s mother intervened with just seconds to spare was the beneficiary of a high-profile campaign to save his life.
In a case that has provoked surprise in Iran and across the world, the killer, known only as Balal, was dramatically saved on Tuesday as a crowd awaiting his execution looked on.
He survived despite the mother of the man he murdered in a street fight seven years ago refusing an offer of so-called blood money until the very last moment at the gallows.
As Balal awaited his fate, a grieving Samereh Alinejad, who lost another son in a motorbike accident four years ago, emotionally asked out loud if those watching the spectacle unfold knew “how difficult it is to live in an empty house?”
Instead of participating in “qisas” – in which under the sharia law of retribution relatives can push away the chair on which the condemned man stands – Alinejad instead pardoned the killer, imparting only a slap on his face as punishment.
Under the country’s interpretation of Islamic sharia laws, a victim’s family has the right to spare a convict’s life in return for financial recompense.
Iran’s Shargh newspaper said police officers had led Balal, black-hooded, to the execution site in Nowshahr, a northern city.
After slapping him, Alinejad removed the hangman’s rope with the help of her husband, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, a former professional footballer.
“I am a believer. I had a dream in which my son told me that he was at peace and in a good place,” Alinejad told Shargh.
“After that, all my relatives, even my mother, put pressure on me to pardon the killer.”
The “slap was the space between revenge and forgiveness”, she added.
“Now that I’ve forgiven him, I feel relieved.”