A 23-year-old Iranian man was given another chance at life when his execution was stopped at the last second on Tuesday. The man was spared by his victim’s mother when she chose to slap his face rather than watch him die.
Balal was the name of the man scheduled to be hanged for the killing of the woman’s son Abdollah Hosseinzadeh in a street altercation in Iran back in 2007. The two involved were still teens at the time. Balal was convicted and sentenced to death for stabbing the other young man and killing him.
A blood stained rope hung silently over a rusty steel framed structure on Tuesday as a quieted crowd waited for a man to be brought out and publicly executed. The Iranian town of Nowshahr is the setting where bystanders expected to see a man hanged. As the blindfolded and shackled man was forcefully dragged out to the cement courtyard he let out screams, said reports. There was a wooden chair placed on the ground below the noose as it hung in stillness from the makeshift gallows.
This type of hanging is also referred to as the “short-drop method” where the chair is kicked out from under the condemned person often causing a slow death by way of strangulation, which some experts say can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes of painful agony. Other methods of hanging such as the long-drop are used elsewhere in cases where height and body weight are factored in to assure the neck is broken bringing a much quicker end to the prisoner’s suffering according to authorities on execution.
The man was lifted and positioned standing upright on the chair as the noose was placed around his neck. The mother of the young man he stabbed to death was brought forward. As Balal stood blindfolded awaiting the fatal blow to the chair beneath his feet, he was shockingly surprised with a slap across the face from the woman, signifying that she was indeed sparing the man’s life. According to interpretations of Islamic Sharia law, the family of the victim reserves the right to offer mercy and may pardon a condemned criminal from the death penalty if they so choose.
The man was brought down from the chair and the mother and father of the victim proceeded to remove the noose from around his neck. The woman said she was a “believer” and that her son appeared to her “in a dream,” telling her he was “at peace” and to forgive the man for his crime.
Prior to the execution date, one of the country’s popular sports announcers Adel Ferdowsipour went on the air pleading for the family of the victim to pardon Balal of the death penalty. According to reports, the station received nearly a million texts in support of the pardon.
Reports show Iran ranked number two in the world for executions of condemned prisoners, China currently ranks number one. The country has been under much scrutiny recently including statements made by the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon regarding human rights issues in Iran and President Hasan Rouhani’s failure to make improvements toward lowering execution numbers.
For a man named Balal, Wednesday was a day few expected him to see. It is still unknown exactly what will happen to the man at this point or how long he will remain in prison. What is certain is that he will be alive thanks to one mother’s mercy that stopped this man’s execution at the last second.
By Aaron Thompson