– Iran unveils machine for amputating thieves’ fingers (France 24, Jan 25, 2013):
One of Iran’s official press agencies published photos showing the public amputation of a thief’s fingers on Wednesday. These show a man getting his finger chopped off with a machine resembling a rotary saw.
WARNING: These images may shock viewers.
We contacted many of our Observers in Iran to ask them about this machine. Some of them had heard about it before, but many discovered its existence through these morbid photographs, which were reportedly taken on Thursday. According to the INSA press agency, the man shown getting his finger cut off was charged with robbery and adultery by a court in the southwestern city of Shiraz. He was also accused of being at the head of a criminal organisation. On top of losing one of his fingers, he was sentenced to three years in prison and 99 whip lashes.
No independent witnesses were able to recount the circumstances under which this amputation took place. Four photos of the scene published by the press agency were widely relayed on social media networks. Strangely enough, the man’s face did not betray any signs of suffering in the photos, though it is possible that he might have been drugged.
Contacted by FRANCE 24, the spokesperson for Iran Human Rights, Mahmoud Amiry-Moghaddam, who is based in Norway, explains: “What is surprising about this is that not only was this a public amputation, but that photos of it were distributed by official press agencies, and that they showed a machine that we had until yet never seen images of. We have noticed that the authorities have recently being making more and more publicity surrounding cases of corporal punishment. Every time we get closer to an election, the number of these incidents increases. And we’re getting quite close to the presidential election [slated for June]. I believe this is a strategy to instil fear in the population so as to avoid any protests.
Following the amputation, Ali Alghasi, Shiraz’s public prosecutor, announced that sentences against criminals would become increasingly severe, without explaining why.
On January 20, two thieves were hanged in public in Tehran. They had been caught thanks to video filmed by a street surveillance camera that showed them robbing a man at knifepoint. They had stolen the equivalent of 20 euros.
Amputation, whipping, and even death by stoning are all legal forms of punishment under Iran’s Islamic penal code.