Iran's chief justice faced competing calls Thursday about whether to spare a convicted drug trafficker who was found alive at a morgue a day after being hanged.
The prisoner, identified only as 37-year-old Alireza M., was pronounced dead by an attending doctor after initially being "put to death" at a government prison in northeastern Iran.
But according to official state media, when the prisoner’s family went to collect his body the following day he was found to still be breathing.
He is currently hospitalized, but a judge reportedly said he would be executed again “once medical staff confirm his health condition is good enough.”
An Iranian human rights lawyer specializing in death penalty cases, Mohammad Mostafaei, says Iran’s chief justice has the power to stop the double execution.
"Legally, someone who was already hanged, and remains alive, can be hanged again," he said. "But families of the victims in these types of situations have the right to ask for a stay of execution and in Alireza’s case it’s inhumane to hang him again."
A group of Iranian lawyers signed a petition to Chief Justice Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani appealing for a stay in the exceptional case.
The rights group Amnesty International urged Iranian authorities immediately halt Alireza M.’s execution and issue a moratorium on all others.
Amnesty representative Philip Luther said "carrying out a second execution on a man who somehow managed to survive 12 minutes of hanging — who was certified as dead and whose body was about to be turned over to his family — is simply ghastly."
He said the situation "betrays a basic lack of humanity that sadly underpins much of Iran’s justice system."
According to the rights group, Iranian authorities have executed at least 508 people in 2013, including 221 executions that have not been officially confirmed. Amnesty claims the majority of these were connected to drug offences.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.