There’s something rather ironic today about the blindness of justice, all being equal under the law. An Iranian man who after repeated rejection by a woman, threw a bucket of concentrated sulphuric acid in her face was to receive the same punishment himself today. At noon, he was to be anaesthetised then acid dropped into his eyes by medically qualified personnel. The woman, blinded and disfigured for life, without benefit of anaesthesia, is apparently quite willing to do to him exactly what he did to her and has travelled from Spain in order to be prepared to do so. After repeated and hitherto unsuccessful attempts to restore her sight in Barcelona, she has insisted on her right under the law and is currently deaf to all entreaty from her own and other Western governments to either pardon him or accept financial compensation, which is the only legal way to avoid sentence being carried out. An eye for an eye or qesas (retributive justice in kind) is carried out rarely, usually for murder and the moral quagmire is appalling. Western culture recoils at the barbarity of both the offence and its punishment but Iran is an immature democracy, ruled by a theocratic elite and the likelihood of this woman saying ‘go, and sin no more’ is remote.
As of this moment, sentence has been postponed but the Damoclean threat – an appalling punishment in itself – still hovers.
Many around the world commented that the efficient dispatch of the skinny old man in Abbotabad last week carries moral consequences of similar magnitude. The story is told of Alexander the Great and a pirate he captured. The Emperor (Obama) placed the pirate (Osama) on trial, angrily demanding of him “How dare you molest the seas?”. The pirate responded “How dare you molest the whole world? Because I do it with a small boat and you do it with a great navy, I am called a pirate and you an emperor.” (Augustine,City of God) We might observe that a trial was not, in this case, granted to the ‘pirate’; instead his guilt was assumed and, one might argue, retributive justice was similarly applied.