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Mother in Iran recalls act of mercy for son's killer

ROYAN, Iran--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 US$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.

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In this picture taken on Monday, April 28, Iranian woman Samereh Alinejad prays at the grave of her sons Amir Hossein and Abdollah in a cemetery in the city of Royan about 146 ...

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