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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 16:59 GMT
Iran town rejoices at public hanging

By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Pakdasht, Iran

Mother of a murdered child waits for Bijeh's execution
Most of Mohammad Bijeh's victims were children
"Again! Kill him again!" people shouted as Mohammad Bijeh's body swayed above the main square of the town of Pakdasht.

An Iranian serial killer convicted of kidnapping and murdering 21 children was publicly flogged and hanged on Wednesday before thousands of spectators in this small Iranian town, 40km (25 miles) south-east of the capital, Tehran.

From the early morning police cars drove through the streets announcing the location and the time of the execution.

"At nine in the main square," they yelled into loudspeakers and thousands responded to these calls. Soon the square was full of people.

Handful of bones

Women and men, young and old, gathered behind a fence built for the occasion. At times they would try to push their way through it and the human chain of policemen that surrounded the place of execution.

Bunches of young boys dangled from trees and lamp posts, and dozens of people crowded the roofs of the surrounding buildings.

In the middle of the square stood a tall crane that would be used for the execution.

Onlookers at the execution
Spectators climbed into a tree to get a better look
Just metres away from it, relatives of the victims waited for the police to bring out the man who had murdered their children.

The "desert vampire" is how Mohammad Bijeh had become known to the Iranians.

For one year, Bijeh, 24, a worker at a brick kiln, would trick children into the desert south of Tehran by saying they were going to hunt animals.

There he would kill them. Then he would burn or bury their bodies.

"I looked for my boy for nine months. After nine months all we got was a handful of bones," said Basre Shirzad, 27, whose son was among Bijeh's 21 victims.

Cold comfort

Bijeh's killing spree lasted until he was finally caught six months ago. During the closed trial he confessed to all of his crimes, coolly recounting the details of each murder.

We sold everything while we searched for my son. We have nothing left
Faril Shirzad
At the time of his capture, he was quoted as saying he wanted to take revenge on society because as a child he had been abused by his stepmother.

"He told everything in detail," Shirzad's husband remembered.

"They showed him a picture of our boy and he told how he snatched him, how he killed him with stones, how he burned him."

Despite their frustration and anger, Basre and her husband Faril, who are both refugees from Afghanistan, said they would have preferred to see another Islamic law - that of "blood money" - implemented instead of the execution.

"We sold everything while we searched for my son. We have nothing left.

"We have no job. It would have been better if Bijeh had paid money," Shirzad said.

'Happiest day'

But some others thought the execution was the right choice.

"This is the strength of the Islamic tradition. This is true justice," said Mouhammad Nouri.

"This is the happiest day in my life. Apart from the day my late son was born," a father of another boy victim whispered as he watched, mesmerised, Mohammad Bijeh's bulky figure appear on an improvised stage in the square.

The angry cheers filled the air as the court officials carried out the punishment of 100 lashes.

Bijeh was silent and still, but at one point his body shook visibly from the shock of the pain and he began falling down.

His shirt soaking in blood, he was then brought down from the podium.

As he walked up to the crane, the growing roar of the crowd mixed with the chant of the final prayer that mullahs read into the loudspeakers.

Final blow

At that moment, the 17-year-old brother of one of Mohammad Bijeh's victims ran up to him and tried to stab him. But the boy was quickly pushed away by the soldiers.

Then a woman in a black chador, the mother of another victim, walked up to the crane and put the rope around Mohammad Bijeh's neck.

As his body soared into the air above the square, the crowd applauded and cheered.

Some relatives joined in the chanting and applause.

Others stood quietly, their heads raised high, the tearful eyes focused on the dark figure that swayed in the blue sky.

"Maybe it was not a good thing that there were so many children there? It's not good for them to see this," one of the spectators said as the crowd began to thin out and dissolve into Pakdasht's dusty streets.


SEE ALSO:
Iran's 'desert vampire' executed
16 Mar 05 |  Middle East
Relatives' fury halts Iran trial
13 Oct 04 |  Middle East
Iran 'child murder' trial starts
12 Oct 04 |  Middle East
Iran 'serial child killers' held
11 Sep 04 |  Middle East
Country profile: Iran
13 Aug 04 |  Country profiles


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