Iran has decided to spare the life of a convicted drug trafficker who regained consciousness from a coma after surviving a hanging, media reports quoting top judicial officials said Wednesday.
The reports follow calls from within Iran and appeals from international rights groups against the man, who was found alive in a morgue, facing execution for a second time.
“The convict who survived (the death penalty) will not be executed again,” Justice Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said late Tuesday in remarks reported by the official IRNA news agency.
“After putting much effort to prevent the second execution of this convict, we have received a positive response,” he said without elaborating.
Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani appeared to confirm the stay of a second execution.
Larijani said he was “for the proposal of pardoning the individual from the execution sentence to one degree lower,” suggesting the convict, identified only as Alireza M., may be jailed for life instead.
All judicial affairs and decisions in Iran rest with the judiciary, which constitutionally operates independently from the government.
“One of the ways of dealing with an individual who has encountered death and endured hardships is a pardon,” Larijani said.
“I will definitely do this on humanitarian grounds,” the top judge was quoted as saying by IRNA, adding there could be legal grounds for a repeat execution
Iran has one of the world’s highest execution rates, with more than 500 cases last year and almost the same number so far this year, according to human rights watchdogs.
Alireza M., 37, was arrested three years ago for carrying one kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of methamphetamine and was given the death penalty.
The sentence was carried out earlier this month, with the attending doctor pronouncing him dead after hanging for 12 minutes from a noose suspended from a crane at a jail in northeast Iran.
The next day, staff at the mortuary in the city of Bojnourd, where his shrouded body was taken, found he was still breathing. He was later reported to have fallen into a coma.
However, the local Khorasan newspaper reported Wednesday that Alireza M. has “regained consciousness and is able to talk.”
Pour-Mohammadi implied a second execution would be damaging for Iran’s image. “If he survives, it is not expedient to hang him again,” the minister said.
Amnesty International also called for an immediate stay of execution for Alireza M.
Tehran says the death penalty is essential to maintain law and order, and that it is applied only after exhaustive judicial proceedings.
Murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery are among the crimes punishable by death in Iran, based on its interpretation of sharia law in force since its 1979 Islamic revolution.