Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mis-Rule of Law

[posted by Callimachus]

This story almost defies excerpting. Each graph is as jaw-dropping as the next. But I'll try:

TEHRAN, April 18 — The Iranian Supreme Court has overturned the murder convictions of six members of a prestigious state militia who killed five people they considered “morally corrupt.”

... According to the Supreme Court’s earlier decision, the killers, who are members of the Basiji Force, volunteer vigilantes favored by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, considered their victims morally corrupt and, according to Islamic teachings and Iran’s Islamic penal code, their blood could therefore be shed.

The last victims, for example, were a young couple engaged to be married who the killers claimed were walking together in public.

Members of the Basiji Force are known for attacking reformist politicians and pro-democracy meetings. President Ahmadinejad was a member of the force, but the Supreme Court judges who issued the ruling are not considered to be specifically affiliated with it.

Iran’s Islamic penal code, which is a parallel system to its civic code, says murder charges can be dropped if the accused can prove the killing was carried out because the victim was morally corrupt.

This is true even if the killer identified the victim mistakenly as corrupt. In that case, the law requires “blood money” to be paid to the family. Every year in Iran, a senior cleric determines the amount of blood money required in such cases. This year it is $40,000 if the victim is a Muslim man, and half that for a Muslim woman or a non-Muslim.

In a long interview with the Iranian Student News Agency, a Supreme Court judge, Mohammad Sadegh Al-e-Eshagh, who did not take part in this case, sought Wednesday to discourage vigilante killings, saying those carried out without a court order should be punished.

At the same time, he laid out examples of moral corruption that do permit bloodshed, including armed banditry, adultery by a wife and insults to the Prophet Muhammad.

... The ruling stems from a case in 2002 in Kerman that began after the accused watched a tape by a senior cleric who ruled that Muslims could kill a morally corrupt person if the law failed to confront that person.

Some 17 people were killed in gruesome ways after that viewing, but only five deaths were linked to this group. The six accused, all in their early 20s, explained to the court that they had taken their victims outside the city after they had identified them. Then they stoned them to death or drowned them in a pond by sitting on their chests.