Iran mother recalls act of mercy for son’s killer

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This picture provided by ISNA, a semi-official news agency, taken on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 shows Maryam Hosseinzadeh, right, and her husband Abdolghani, left, removing the noose from the neck of blindfolded Bilal who was convicted of murdering their son Abdollah in the northern city of Nour, Iran. Bilal who was convicted of killing Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, was pardoned by the victim’s family moments before being executed. (AP Photo/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

This picture provided by ISNA, a semi-official news agency, taken on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 shows Maryam Hosseinzadeh, right, and her husband Abdolghani, left, removing the noose from the neck of blindfolded Bilal who was convicted of murdering their son Abdollah in the northern city of Nour, Iran. Bilal who was convicted of killing Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, was pardoned by the victim’s family moments before being executed. (AP Photo/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

This picture provided by ISNA, an semi-official news agency, taken on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 shows a blindfolded Iranian man Bilal being prepared to be hanged in public in the northern city of Nour, Iran. Bilal, who was convicted of killing Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, was pardoned by the victim’s family moments before being executed. (AP Photo/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi)

FILE – This Tuesday, April 15, 2014, file picture provided by ISNA, a semi-official news agency, shows Iranian woman Samereh Alinejad, right, slapping blindfolded Bilal, who was convicted of murdering her son Abdollah prior to his execution in public in the northern city of Nour, Iran. Her son’s killer stood shackled on a chair on the gallows, the noose around his neck. Hundreds crowded outside the jailhouse in this northern Iranian town to see if Samereh Alinejad would exercise her right to kick the chair out from under him to let him hang. Alinejad tells The Associated Press that she had felt she could never live with herself if the man who killed her son were spared. But in the last moment, she pardoned him in an act that has made her a hero in her hometown, where banners in the streets praise her family’s mercy. (AP Photo/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi, File)

FILE – This Tuesday, April 15, 2014, file photo provided by ISNA, a semi-official news agency, shows blindfolded Iranian convicted man Bilal being escorted by officials and security to be prepared for his execution in public in the northern city of Nour, Iran. Bilal, who was convicted of killing Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, was pardoned by the victim’s family moments before being executed. His mother, Samerah Alinejad tells The Associated Press that she had felt she could never live with herself if the man who killed her son were spared. But in the last moment, she pardoned him in an act that has made her a hero in her hometown, where banners in the streets praise her family’s mercy. (AP Photo/ISNA, Arash Khamoushi, File)

In this pictures taken on Monday, April 28, 2014, Iranian woman Samereh Alinejad, left, and her husband Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh wash the grave stone of their sons Amir Hossein and Abdollah while their daughter Fatemeh looks on in a cemetery in the city of Royan about 146 miles (235 kilometers) north of the capital Tehran, Iran. Amir Hossein was killed in a motorcycle crash and Abdollah was killed in a street brawl. Alinejad tells The Associated Press that she had felt she could never live with herself if the man who killed her son Abdollah were spared from execution. But in the last moment, she pardoned him in an act that has made her a hero in her hometown, where banners in the streets praise her family’s mercy. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

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ROYAN, Iran (AP) — Her son’s killer stood on a chair on the gallows, his hands shackled, the noose around his neck. Hundreds crowded outside the jailhouse in a northern Iranian town to see if the mother, Samereh Alinejad, would exercise her right to kick the chair out from under him to let him hang.

But after seven years of dreaming of revenge — up to the last moment she held the killer’s life in her hands — Alinejad pardoned Bilal Gheisari. That act has made her a hero in her hometown, Royan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, where banners in the streets commend her family’s mercy. Two weeks after the dramatic scene at the gallows, well-wishers still pass by her home to praise her and her husband

Alinejad told The Associated Press during a visit to her home that retribution had been her only thought ever since her 17-year-old son Abdollah was killed seven years ago in a street brawl when Gheisari’s knife sliced through his neck.

“My world collapsed the day I heard about my son’s death,” she said, dressed in a black with a black scarf covering her hair. “If I pardoned Bilal and saved him from death, how would I be able to live anymore?”

The thought of Gheisari’s family’s happiness at his eventually walking out of jail a free man ate her up inside. “I told my husband if he were spared death, I would die,” she said.

Families of murder victims in Iran and some other Muslim countries are often faced with the final word choice over whether convicted killers live or die. The Islamic law concept of “qisas” — an “an eye for an eye” provision — gives them the chance to oversee the killer’s execution.

They also have the option to have mercy — often in return for blood money payments of $35,000 or more. Forgoing qisas is seen as an act of charity and a chance to atone for one’s sins. In standard murder cases in Iran, it is a choice left up to victim’s family, not the government.

Alinejad’s pardon was not the first time a family decided to forgo retribution at the last minute. But a series of photos by an Iranian photographer for the ISNA news agency

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