A Botched Hanging and the History of Executions

A convicted drug smuggler is facing a second execution in Iran, after surviving his first execution.

The BBC reports that “the condemned man, named as Alireza M, was found alive in a morgue after being hanged at a jail in the north-eastern city of Bojnord last week. He is now being nursed to recovery in preparation for his repeat execution.”


Alireza “was left to hang for 12 minutes, after which a doctor declared him dead,” according to the BBC. “But when the prisoner’s family went to collect his body from the prison morgue the next day, they found he was still breathing.”

Amnesty International has called on the Iranian government to halt the second execution, calling it inhumane punishment.

Students in my HIST 111 Western Civilization 1500-1800 course will be interested in this story, since botched executions figured significantly in one of the books we discussed this semester. Joel F. Harrington, The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013), presents a microhistory of a Nuremberg executioner, Franz Schmidt, in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Although Franz strove to uphold his community’s ideals of justice through his professional conduct and moral behavior, several of the executions he performed were botched, with horrifying results. The book raises important questions about the death penalty and its application in the early modern period, as well as today.

BBC reports on the botched execution and the condemned Iranian man.

This entry was posted in Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, European History, European Wars of Religion, History of Violence, Human Rights. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Botched Hanging and the History of Executions

  1. Sheila Barker says:

    Early Christian history is full of stories of botched executions that had to be redone–St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Sebastian, for example. The Christians saw these episodes as instances of divine intervention proving the individual who had been criminalized by non-believers was actually among the Blessed. I wonder–Did these survival stories cease to be received as hagiographic miracles once the juries and executioners were Christian, too? I would be interested to learn from Harrington’s book how early modern Christian governments accomodated these events that had once signaled a state’s contravention of a higher moral order, with the criminal’s tortured but living body serving as a site of rupture between the human and the divine.

  2. Good point, Sheila! Harrington’s book discusses crowds attacking executioners who botched executions in early modern Germany. There is even a contemporary illustration of one of these incidents, when a crowd stoned one incompetent executioner. I think that you would really enjoy reading this book. I am currently using the book in my HIST 111 Western Civilization,1500-1800 course.

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