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Extraordinary scenes as mother saves her son's killer from the noose

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A photographer has captured the incredible moment a mother saved her teenage son's killer from the noose, just moments before he was due to be hung for murder in Iran.

The photos show the terrified man - known only as Balal - being pushed towards the gallows with a rope around his neck, in one of the many public executions that take place in the Islamic republic.

Under the rules of qisas, the sharia law of retribution, the victim's family were to push the chair on which Balal was balancing, in order to trigger the execution by hanging.

But in a rare move, the family instead chose to spare his life.

According to a report in the Guardian, Balal was seconds away from being executed when the victim's mother stepped forward, slapped him in the face and then forgave him for his crime.

Photo: Arash Khamooshi /Isna

In emotional scenes, the victim's father removed the noose from around the neck of Balal. Balal's mother then rushed forward to embrace the mother of her son's 18-year-old victim.

Both women were sobbing; one because she had lost her son and the other, because her son had been saved.

The extraordinary sequence of events was captured by Arash Khamooshi, of Iran's Isna news agency.

Photo: Arash Khamooshi /Isna

Balal, who is in his 20s, was convicted of stabbing Abdollah Hosseinzadeh to death during a street brawl in the northern town of Royan six years ago.

"My 18-year-old son Abdollah was taking a stroll in the bazaar with his friends when Balal shoved him," said the victim's father, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, according to Isna news agency. "Abdollah was offended and kicked him but at this time the murderer took an ordinary kitchen knife out of his socks."

The victim's family believed that Balal had not meant to kill their son. "Balal was inexperienced and didn't know how to handle a knife. He was naive," said the father.

Photo: Arash Khamooshi /Isna

The family decided to forgive Balal and save his life because of a dream the victim's mother experienced, several days before the execution.

The decision became all the more honorable in light of the fact that the family also lost their younger son in a motorbike accident aged 11.

"Three days ago my wife saw my elder son in a dream telling her that they [the sons] 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," Hosseinzadeh said.

The move by the victim's family saves Balal from execution rather than prison time, and it's not yet clear whether he will remain behind bars.

Photo: Arash Khamooshi /Isna

Iran has one of the worst human rights records in the world when it comes to public executions, which are usually carried out using cranes that lift the condemned person by a noose around the neck in front of a crowd of spectators. They are typically conducted in unregulated settings, and children are often present.

Amnesty International voiced its alarm over a surge of executions in the country at the beginning of this year, with 33 carried out in just one week.

At least 369 people were put to death in the country last year (a figure that is topped only by China), although Amnesty and other organisations have raised concerns that more executions are taking place in secret, with trials carried out behind closed doors.

"In Iran drug-related offences are tried in Revolutionary Courts which routinely fall far short of international fair trial standards. The reality in Iran is that people are being ruthlessly sentenced to death after unfair trials, and this is unacceptable," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Rex Features

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