IRAN: Court postpones eye-for-an-eye punishment for man who threw acid on woman


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Iranian courts have delaying the punishment of a man who was sentenced to blinding by acid for his attack on a woman seven years ago.

Majid Movahedi, then 21, poured more than a gallon of sulfuric acid on Ameneh Bahrami in 2004 after she rejected his offer of marriage.


Bahrami, who was a successful and ambitious engineer in Tehran, now lives in Spain where she has been undergoing a series of surgeries.

Movahedi, after Bahrami’s relentless efforts to seek justice, went on trial in 2008 and was given the rare sentence of blinding. He was to have been placed under anesthesia and blinded at the Tehran prison where he is being held.

This form of qisas, or retributive justice, is allowed in the Islamic Criminal Code in Iran, under Islamc sharia law. It calls for the infliction of equal bodily harm on an aggressor.

According to Islamic Studies scholar Ahmad Moussalli in Beirut, retributive justice is a common method for dealing with personal crimes. Families usually come to an agreement rather than appeal to court for a qisas punishment, but in this case Bahrami had pushed for the punishment.

Amnesty International called on Iranian authorities on Friday to not carry out the punishment, equating it with torture and medical malpractice.

The sentence created an international uproar.

“Regardless of how horrific the crime suffered by Ameneh Bahrami, being blinded with acid is a cruel and inhuman punishment amounting to torture, and the Iranian authorities have a responsibility under international law to ensure it does not go ahead,’ said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Many observers had expected the verdict to be set aside as Iran has become increasingly aware of its public image. The issue had not generated much domestic buzz before international human rights organizations vehemently denounced the verdict.


Defusing domestic criticism is crucial in Iran today as the ruling structure faces a host of domestic and international challenges, which might explain why the courts handed down the sentence only to show clemency by postponing the punishment.

— Roula Hajjar in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Below: Bahrami, in Barcelona in 2009, holds a photo of herself before the attack. Credit: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images