A photo from Iran is making waves worldwide, arousing debates on capital punishment, which in the Islamist Republic and many other countries is meted out not only to murderers.
Alireza Mafiha, an Iranian man convicted of a violent street robbery in Tehran, was waiting for the gallows on Sunday when he was photographed in an exceptionally human moment: Laying his head on his executioner's shoulder and weeping. Minutes later he was publicly hanged in a square in central Tehran.
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Mafiha, 23, is no saint: His execution together with 20-year-old Mohamad Ali Sorouri followed their posting a video on Youtube in December in which they are both seen attacking a man with a machete in Tehran.
Before their execution (Photo: AP)
Iran's Chief Justice Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani ruled the crime construes "waging war against God," a broad charge that can cover actions ranging from anti-state organizing to violent assaults, punishable by death according to Iranian law.
The two men were brought on Sunday to a Tehran square. Iranian police, their faces masked to hide their identity from the men's relatives, surrounded them and took them to the gallows.
While Sorouri remained impassive, Mafiha was seen laying his head on a masked man's shoulder and bursting in tears.
The executioner rested his hand on Mafiha's back, while a group of women begged the policemen to spare the two's lives. Their pleas were unanswered: The men were lifted on a crane and hanged.
The crowd (Photo: AP)
The damning footage posted on Youtube shows Mafiha and Sorouri together with two accomplices riding motorcycles on a Tehran street, attacking a man and robbing him of his bag and coat.
Mafiha claimed in his trial that the four men committed the robbery due to the abject poverty they suffer, saying that both he and Sorouri are unemployed.
But the video made its way from Youtube to the Iranian TV channels, and public outrage brought the court to rule their execution.
Iran is at the top of the world's proponents of the death penalty, with hundreds executed annually, often for relatively moderate offences such as drugs smuggling.
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