An Iranian mother spared the life of her son’s convicted murderer with an emotional slap in the face as he awaited execution with the noose around his neck, a newspaper has reported.
The dramatic climax followed a rare public campaign to save the life of Balal, who when he was 19 knifed to death another young man, Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, in a 2007 street fight.
Police officers led Balal to a public execution site as a large crowd gathered on Tuesday morning in the city of Nowshahr, reports Shargh newspaper.
Samereh Alinejad, mother of the victim, asked the crowd if they know “how difficult it is to live in an empty house.”
Mrs Alinejad also lost another son in a motorbike accident four years ago.
Convicted murderer Balal wore a black hood and was standing on a chair before the gallows with the noose around his neck when Mrs Alinejad approached, slapped him in the face, and removed the rope from around his neck.
She was assisted by husband, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, a former professional footballer.
Mrs Alinejad said she had decided to spare her son’s killer after her late son appeared to hear in a dream.
“I am a believer. I had a dream in which my son told me that he was at peace and in a good place,” Mrs Alinejad told Shargh.
“After that, all my relatives, even my mother, put pressure on me to pardon the killer,” said Mrs Alinejad.
“The murderer was crying, asking for forgiveness. I slapped him in the face. That slap helped to calm me down,” she said.
“Now that I’ve forgiven him, I feel relieved.”
Balal said the “slap was the space between revenge and forgiveness.”
“I’ve asked my friends not to carry knives … I wish someone had slapped me in the face when I wanted to carry one,” Balal said in a television interview.
The last-minute reprieve came after a high-profile campaign by public figures including TV host Adel Ferdosipour and former international footballer Ali Daei, who appealed to the victim’s family to forgive the killer.
More than 170 people have been executed in the Islamic republic since the beginning of 2014, the UN says.