Society & Culture

Eye for an Eye Justice, But Not For Jewish Victims in Iran

November 19, 2013
Hanif Kashani
3 min read
Eye for an Eye Justice, But Not For Jewish Victims in Iran
Eye for an Eye Justice, But Not For Jewish Victims in Iran

In December of 2012, a 23-year-old Iranian named Mohammed shot his friend, 24-year-old Daniel, in the back of the head in Daniel's apartment in Tehran. Iranian media, which reported the crime, left out surnames as is typical in crime reporting.

After killing Daniel, Mohammed stole some of his expensive possessions, including Daniel’s BMW. Shortly after authorities found and arrested Mohammed, who confessed to the crime, and said he and Daniel had gone out together that night and that he had committed the murder upon return to Daniel’s apartment.

The case is exceptional on multiple fronts: murder happens in Iran, but violent gun murder is rare, and Daniel wasn't just another young man, but a Jewish Iranian. A a criminal court in Tehran finally handed down a verdict this past week, decreeing that Mohammad must pay blood money to Daniel's family, receive 74 lashes, and spend 162 months behind bars. No death sentence was handed down, despite the victim's family being entitled to seek retributive justice under Iran's Islamic penal code.

After Mohammed’s apprehension, Daniel’s parents demanded the most severe punishment be handed down by Iran's justice system. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, murder is considered a crime punishable by death, and in cases of homicide, the victim's family has three options in their pursuit of justice: forgiving the accused, receiving retribution in the form of blood money (in which the accused must pay a lump sum for the hardship they have caused), or pursuing 'eye for an eye' retribution, known as qesas-e nafs, which is permitted under Islamic law.  Daniel's family chose the last option.

After his initial arrest, Mohammed told authorities that “Daniel was a Jew and he would always make fun of me.” A recent Mehr news report indicated that Mohammed and Daniel were friends, and that although Mohammad bought the gun that killed Daniel he had not intentionally committed the murder.

In contradicting statements Mohammed also said that, “the murder wasn’t motivated by theft, the robbery was just a diversion for the police investigation.” Before sentencing Mohammed admitted he had contradicted and lied in his earlier testimony in order to receive a less severe punishment.   

Mehr News Agency reported the verdict’s announcement with an article headlined, “Heavy Punishment Fatal Shooting on Fereshteh Street.”

According to article 310 of the Islamic Penal Code, if a non-Muslim citizen commits a deliberate crime against a Muslim citizen, the punishment or retribution for that crime is fixed and is not subject to change. In this case, despite the accused confessing to the murder, and Islamic law explicitly stating that murder is punishable by death, it seems that the punishment for the murder of a non-Muslim varies, as was the case with Daniel, who was Jewish.

Last January the online newspaper The Times of Israel reported on Daniel’s murder and claimed Daniel had been romantically involved with the daughter of a Revolutionary Guard member. After Daniel allegedly spurned a marriage proposal from the daughter’s family, “the murder was carried out as revenge for dishonoring the family,” according to a Jewish-Iranian currently living outside of Iran. Iranian media have mentioned no such aspect to the case. 

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