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Iranian Killer Pardoned Moments Before Execution

In a dramatic scene at a scheduled public execution, an Iranian woman spared the life of her son's killer as he stood with a noose around his neck. The victim's relatives were tasked with pushing the chair out from under the convicted killer, but instead the victim's mother slapped him and then forgave him. The scene was captured in photographs by Arash Khamooshi of Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency.

The convicted killer, identified only as Balal, is led to the gallows. He was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing another young man, Abdollah, in a fight seven years ago, when both were 17.
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The convicted killer, identified only as Balal, is led to the gallows. He was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing another young man, Abdollah, in a fight seven years ago, when both were 17.

The day before the planned execution, Balal's mother said she had lost hope that he would be pardoned.
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The day before the planned execution, Balal's mother said she had lost hope that he would be pardoned.

People gather to watch the planned execution in the town of Noor in Mazandaran Province.
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People gather to watch the planned execution in the town of Noor in Mazandaran Province.

The family of the murder victim was expected to participate in the hanging by pushing a chair out from under the prisoner. The custom is endorsed by a part of Sharia law known as "qisas," or retribution.
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The family of the murder victim was expected to participate in the hanging by pushing a chair out from under the prisoner. The custom is endorsed by a part of Sharia law known as "qisas," or retribution.

Balal's relatives cry as the time of the execution approaches.
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Balal's relatives cry as the time of the execution approaches.

The victim's parents stand by as the noose is put around Balal's neck.
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The victim's parents stand by as the noose is put around Balal's neck.

At the decisive moment, the victim's mother approached Balal, slapped him in the face, and said that she forgave him.
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At the decisive moment, the victim's mother approached Balal, slapped him in the face, and said that she forgave him.

The decision meant that the prisoner's life was spared. The victim's parents removed the noose from his neck.
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The decision meant that the prisoner's life was spared. The victim's parents removed the noose from his neck.

A member of the security forces thanks the victim's father, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, for the family's decision to forgive the killer.
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A member of the security forces thanks the victim's father, Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh, for the family's decision to forgive the killer.

The mother of Balal, left, and the mother of Abdollah, the victim, cry together.
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The mother of Balal, left, and the mother of Abdollah, the victim, cry together.

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Relatives of Balal thank Abdollah's father for their family's decision to pardon him.
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Relatives of Balal thank Abdollah's father for their family's decision to pardon him.

Relatives of Balal embrace. The pardon does not mean that he will be freed; the victim's family only have the right to call off the execution.
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Relatives of Balal embrace. The pardon does not mean that he will be freed; the victim's family only have the right to call off the execution.

The parents and sister of the victim, Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, at their home. The family had lost another member, their 11-year-old son, in a motorbike accident.
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The parents and sister of the victim, Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, at their home. The family had lost another member, their 11-year-old son, in a motorbike accident.

Abdollah's parents visit his grave.
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Abdollah's parents visit his grave.

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