In a last-second act of forgiveness, the parents of a man who was stabbed to death decided to spare the life of their son’s murderer.
Crowds surrounded the tense scene at the gallows in the small town of Royan, Iran, fully expecting to witness an execution. The victim’s parents were due to kick the chair out from under the hooded man.
But right before the act was to take place, the victim’s mother ran up to Balal, slapped him in the face, and told him she was forgiving him, reports the Guardian. Her husband then removed the noose. In the dramatic aftermath, the mothers of the victim and the man who had been spared embraced each other and cried.
The parents’ participation is part of the Sharia law of qisas, or retribution.
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Balal was convicted of stabbing 18-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh seven years ago during a street fight that got out of hand.
"My 18-year-old son Abdollah was taking a stroll in the bazaar with his friends when Balal shoved him," the victim's father, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, told the Iranian news agency Isna. "Abdollah was offended and kicked him but at this time the murderer took an ordinary kitchen knife out of his socks."
But after years of delaying the execution, he and his wife — who had already lost one son to a motorcycle accident — are ready to forgive Balal.
"Balal didn't know how to handle a knife. He was naive."
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A dream, he said, prompted the change of heart.
"Three days ago my wife saw my elder son in a dream telling her that they are in a good place, and for her not to retaliate … This calmed my wife and we decided to think more until the day of the execution," the elder Hosseinzadeh said.
Balal is in his 20s. The courts will still have the option to send him to jail, which the victim’s parents do not have a say in.
Iran is the country responsible for the second-most executions in the world, lead only by China.
Bahareh Davis, of Amnesty International, called the family’s decision to grant Balal clemency “welcome news,” adding that public executions are “degrading and incompatible with human dignity.”
"It's deeply disturbing that the death penalty continues to be seen as a solution to crime in Iran,” Davis said. “Not only is the death penalty the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment with no special deterrent impact, but public displays of killing also perpetuate a culture of acceptance of violence.”