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May 15, 2011

Iranian judiciary postpones planned "eye for eye" punishment

As detailed in this new Time piece, the "Iran's judiciary has postponed the blinding of a man as punishment for throwing acid in the face of a young woman in 2004, after she rejected his offer of marriage." Here is more on this proposed and now postponed form of retributive justice:

The delay came in the face of mounting outcry both inside Iran and in the West over the sentencing, which is permissible under qesas, a principle of Islamic law allowing victims analogous retribution for violent crimes.

The case has stirred passionate interest in Iran since 2004, when Majid Movahedi, a university student, accosted Ameneh Bahrami on a Tehran street and tossed a red bucket of sulfuric acid in her face.  Bahrami, an attractive young engineer, had repeatedly spurned Movahedi's proposals and reported his harassment to the police.  She was blinded and severely disfigured in the attack, and has spent the intervening years between Iran and Spain undergoing numerous unsuccessful operations to reconstruct her face and repair her sight.

Much of the public outcry in Iranian media, news websites, and blogs, surrounds the Iranian legal system, which produces such verdicts by practising an 'eye for an eye' approach to justice based on seventh century Islamic jurisprudence.  These principles effectively offer victims of violent crime two legal choices, forgiveness or qesas, analogous retribution....

Speaking on the interactive television program Saturday, Bahrami said she favored a more modern course, suing for damages.  "I want him to be punished foremost. But if there are human rights considerations, then I'll accept two million Euros and his life imprisonment," she said....

Bahrami, who was scheduled to herself administer the blinding drops to an anaesthetized Movahedi, learned of the delay outside the Judiciary Hospital in Tehran. Human rights groups and Western governments pleaded with Iranian authorities last week to call off the punishment.  Iran's government usually responds to such foreign pressure by lashing out rather than backing off, but Bahrami's case poses a unique dilemma: unlike many human rights cases which excite opinion primarily in the West, it has resonated deeply throughout Iranian society; the attention inside Iran raises the prospect of a public backlash at a time when the regime is deeply divided by political infighting. "There's no doubt public opinion inside Iran has been stirred up," says Amini.  "There's been a huge outpouring of sympathy for both of them, and this puts pressure on the government."

May 15, 2011 at 09:01 PM | Permalink


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Why should the defendant get anesthesia, unless he administered anesthesia his victim?

I suppose there will be a mysterious shortage of anesthetics in Iran, as well.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 15, 2011 10:44:46 PM

While I don't think you can run a criminal justice system in this manner, I find it hard to get upset about the fate of this guy.

Posted by: federalist | May 16, 2011 11:10:35 AM

Make that two--from what source _within_ Iran comes the "outpouring of support" for this guy?

Posted by: Commentator | May 16, 2011 10:52:22 PM

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