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Iran: Accused Murderer Saved from Execution by Taking Oaths

(June 19, 2009) Application of an Islamic criminal justice principle by the Supreme Court of Iran saved the life of a man accused of murder. (Arts. 239-256, Islamic Criminal Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, MAJMUAH'I KAMILI QAVANIN VA MUQAR RAR'ARTI JAZA'I [Complete Compilation of Criminal Laws] 1381 (Tehran, 2002).)

This principle is known as Qass'sameh, an Arabic term meaning “taking of an oath repeatedly.” In a criminal case, when convincing evidence does not exist and the judge is unable to come up with a sentence to punish the person accused of the crime of murder or personal injury, the principle of “taking an oath 50 times,” by either the injured party or the accused, is applied.

The case at hand started four years ago in Varamin, a suburb of Tehran, when the body of a man murdered with a knife was discovered. That discovery set off an investigation by the police. Four suspects were arrested, all of whom pointed to a man named J'afar as the principal offender. The first-level criminal court found J'afar guilty, but on appeal he was found innocent. The victim's family appealed to the Supreme Court, where the Islamic criminal justice principle of an oath taken 50 times was applied.

According to Islamic criminal justice procedure, when the accused pleads not guilty, the court requests that the family of the murdered person introduce 50 male witnesses to the court. In this case, the plaintiffs could only garner 11 witnesses, falling far short of the required 50. The court then turned to the accused to introduce 50 male witnesses, who could include his relatives. He also failed to bring the required number of witnesses.

The Supreme Court then, followed the Islamic procedure by asking the accused to take an oath 50 times, declaring that he was not guilty. The accused, who had served four years in jail, complied and was set free. (A Person Accused of Murder Was Saved from Execution by Taking 50 Oaths [in Farsi], IRAN TIMES INTERNATIONAL, May 8, 2009, at 1 & 12.)