In a very rare ruling, a man who threw acid on another man in Tehran about a decade ago has been sentenced to be blinded based on the Islamic eye-for-an-eye retribution law.
But his punishment has been delayed as physicians have refused to administer the sentence, according to an Iranian judicial official who recently spoke to domestic media.
The official, introduced as Judge Dashtban, oversees the implementation of judicial sentences in one of the Iranian capital's districts.
Dashtban said earlier this week that a court has ordered a "surgical operation" to be performed on the eye and ear of the attacker, identified as Hamid S, but he added that no doctor has agreed to take on the job yet.
"No physician has accepted to apply Qisas [the Islamic law of retribution] on the eye and ear of the convict through surgery," Dashtban was quoted as saying by Iranian media on January 22.
It wasn't clear when the sentence was issued. The acid attack occurred in 2005.
The victim, Davood Roshanayi, has said that he was walking in Tehran's Majidiyeh neighborhood when he noticed someone was following him.
He said he didn't know the man.
Based on Roshanayi's account, the man splashed him with a jar of acid when he asked him why he was chasing him.
Roshanayi lost his left eye and right ear and he was badly disfigured as the result of the assault.
"My hands, legs, and my chest were also hurt in the incident and I have only 20 percent of vision in my right eye," he said in a 2012 interview with the semiofficial ISNA news agency.
"It would be better if I was asked which part of my body had been left unharmed in the incident," he added.
Roshanayi said the attacker had at different stages offered various "excuses" for his action, including that he had mistaken his victim for someone else.
Dashtban said the bureau of forensic medicine is in charge of overseeing the implementation of the sentence against Hamid S, which has been confirmed by Iran's Supreme Court.
"We can't tell the forensic office or a doctor that 'You have to do this,'" he said
Dashtban added that, at one point, the prerequisites were in place for the sentence to be carried out. But he said that, a day before the scheduled date, the family of the victim offered some conditions under which they would give up their demand for the retribution punishment to be implemented.
"After two months, the family of the convict announced that they couldn't fulfill the conditions and the victim renewed his demand for the sentence to be administered," he said.
Norway-based Iranian lawyer and human rights advocate Mohammad Mostafaei says the judgment against Hamid S. is highly unusual in the Islamic republic.
Islamic law adheres to the notion of an "eye for an eye" under the Qisas principle, but Mostafaei says making such rulings is very complicated due to the many conditions that need to be fulfilled.
For example, he says it has to be demonstrated that the intention of the attacker was to blind the victim.
"In these cases, the people's aim is to destroy the beauty of their victims, but they might not intend to make them blind," Mostafaei told RFE/RL.
He said that, according to Iranian laws, if a person is killed in an acid attack, the perpetrator is sentenced to death. In other cases, he says, perpetrators are usually sentenced to prison and ordered to pay compensation.
Violating Medical Ethics
In a 2011 case that garnered lots of media attention, a court ordered acid to be dropped into the eyes of a man who had blinded and badly disfigured a woman in 2004.
The sentence was not carried out after the victim, Ameneh Bahrami -- who had originally supported the punishment and had expressed a willingness to do it herself -- pardoned her assailant.
Mostafaei says obliging a doctor to administer such a punishment would violate medical ethical codes.
"It is totally against their oath to heal the sick and not harm anyone," he said.
Iranian media report that Roshanayi is eager for the Qisas sentence against his attacker to be carried out.
In his interview with ISNA, Roshanayi said he was hoping to receive compensation money to pursue needed medical treatment.
Last December, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said sentences in the case of two acid attacks will be carried out and that a Qisas punishment would be administered on the eyes of the convicted attackers, meaning that they will be blinded.
He didn't provide details about the cases. But he acknowledged "difficulties" in the "medical system" in administering acid-attack sentences.
According to reports, one of the two cases involves a 2012 acid attack against Mohsen Mortazavi who lost one of his eyes and was horrifically disfigured when a colleague splashed him with three liters of acid.
His attacker has been reportedly sentenced to the administration of Qisas on one eye and ear. He has also been ordered to pay financial compensation.
Mostafaei said the sentences violate human rights and amount to torture.
"The aim of these sentences is to create fear among people [and prevent such attacks]," he added.
Last October, a string of acid attacks targeted a number of young women in the city of Isfahan. Some of the victims were badly burned, disfigured, and blinded.
Authorities say they have so far not been able to identify and arrest the perpetrators of the attacks, but they have vowed tough punishment against the assailants.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari