An Iranian grand ayatollah who issued a fatwa ordering the executions of convicts who survive attempted executions has said his religious ruling should not be applied in the case of the man who revived in a morgue earlier this month.
Alireza, a 37-year-old father of two, was hanged two weeks ago for possessing 1kg of crystal meth and was certified as dead by medics after hanging for 12 minutes.
He was sent for burial, but a day later morgue workers realized he was still alive after they saw steam in the plastic cover he was wrapped in.
Following his arrest three years ago, a revolutionary court had found Alireza guilty of drug smuggling and sentenced him to death.
Media reports in Iran have said the judicial authorities are planning to hang him again on the basis that he was sentenced to lose his life, rather than just to be hanged.
A fatwa issued by the Shia Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani has been cited as justification for the second attempt.
However, a statement issued on behalf of Golpaygani on Thursday said his religious ruling should not be applied to Alireza’s case and the ayatollah had “another view” about his destiny.
According to the semi-official Mehr news agency, Golpaygani has a fatwa in the second volume of his religious rulings, which says: “After the execution and before the burial, if the convict comes back to life while in the morgue or at the coroner’s office and recovers after treatment, the verdict for Qisas [retribution] or Had [punishment] remains viable.”
A statement issued on Golpaygani’s official Web site said: “The issue that has been raised on [his book] has nothing to do with [this man’s] case and the ayatollah has another view about his issue.”
The statement did not elaborate on what the ayatollah’s view was about Alireza’s fate.
Golpaygani reacted after a number of people contacted his office asking him to intervene or clarify his position over Alireza’s case.
The state-run Jam-e-Jam newspaper, the first media organization to break the news about Alireza’s ordeal, said many of its readers had asked for his life to be spared.
The references to Qisas and Had in Golpaygani’s fatwa mean it only applies to sentences for certain crimes, called Hodud in the Islamic terminology, that are not at the discretion of the judge, but are defined by Shariah law.
Under Iranian Shariah law, certain crimes such as sodomy, rape, theft, fornication, apostasy and consumption of alcohol for the third time are considered to be “claims of God” and therefore have a mandatory death sentence.
Alireza is instead condemned to Tazir, a punishment that can be administered at the discretion of the judge, raising hopes that the judiciary might be able to change its mind over his case.