After Man Survives Hanging, Iran Plans a Second Attempt

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Correction Appended

Death penalty opponents pleaded with Iran on Thursday to spare a convicted drug felon who survived a hanging and was sent from the morgue to a hospital to recuperate so he could be rehanged. It appeared to be the first time that the judicial authorities in Iran, one of the world's top users of the death penalty, twice ordered a hanging carried out.

Amnesty International said in a statement that it was unconscionable that the condemned man, identified in the Iranian news media as Alireza M., 37, should be subjected to such punishment, and said the judicial authorities should grant a stay of execution -- not just to him but to all prisoners on death row.

"The horrific prospect of this man facing a second hanging, after having gone through the whole ordeal already once, merely underlines the cruelty and inhumanity of the death penalty," said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program.

According to Iranian news accounts, the man spent 12 minutes dangling in a noose suspended from a crane in a prison in the northeast city of Bojnurd last week, and a physician declared him dead. But the next day the staff at the prison morgue discovered he was still breathing as the family was en route to collect his body. The news accounts said the presiding judge ordered him hospitalized for rehanging "once medical staff confirm his health condition is good enough."

Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said the order "does appear to be setting a precedent to the best of our knowledge in cases of hanging."

A joint report issued last week by Mr. Ghaemi's group and the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center said that the rate of hanging executions in Iran has accelerated in recent weeks, even as Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, has sought to convey a softer and gentler image of Iran abroad. At least 125 people have been hanged since Mr. Rouhani took office in August, Mr. Ghaemi asserted, many of them for drug-related offenses.

Iran carries out more executions than any country except China. So far in 2013, the authorities are believed to have executed a total of 508 people, Amnesty International said.

Iran is hardly alone, however, in carrying out executions that were initially botched. In a famous case in the United States, Willie Francis, a convicted murderer who had survived the electric chair in Louisiana in 1946, was ordered electrocuted again, and the United States Supreme Court ruled in the state's favor.

Correction: October 18, 2013, Friday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article gave an incomplete attribution for a report that the rate of hanging executions in Iran has accelerated in recent weeks. It was conducted jointly by the International  Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, based in New York, and the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, based in New Haven, Conn.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 18, 2013 2:01 PM


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