Illustration: Noose
Illustration: NooseReuters

A 37 year old Iranian man who survived his execution for drug smuggling offenses will not be re-hanged, an Iranian court has ruled.

The man, named only as Alireza M, was pronounced dead after 12 minutes following his hanging earlier this month

But when his family members went to collect his body at the prison morgue in the city of Bojnourd a day later, they discovered that he was still breathing.

Alireza was then moved to a hospital, under police guard, where he slipped into a coma.

A debate has raged ever since as to whether authorities should "try again", and re-execute the man.

Media reports in Iran had previous claimed that judicial authorities were planning to hang Alireza again on the basis that he was sentenced to lose his life, rather than just to be hanged. A fatwa issued by the Shiite grand ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani was cited as justification for re-executing him, according to the Guardian.

However, a statement issued on behalf of Golpaygani on Thursday said his religious ruling should not be applied to Alireza's case and noted that the ayatollah had "another view" about his destiny.

According to the semi-official Mehr news agency, Golpaygani has a fatwa in the second volume of his religious rulings, which says, "After the execution and before the burial, if the convict comes back to life while in the morgue or at the coroner's office and recovers after treatment, the verdict for Qisas (retribution) or Had (punishment) remains viable."

Human rights activists, already concerned about Iran's high rate of executions, say Alireza should be spared under international law, which forbids "cruel and unusual punishment," according to the Guardian.

There are also concerns that Iran is botching hundreds of executions, leaving people to die slow, agonizing deaths, because the sheer volume of killings being carried out means they are not being done "professionally," the report said.

Iran regularly executes people who are convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, adultery and espionage.

According to Amnesty International, at least 508 people may have been executed in Iran this year - a rate that has not slowed under the rule of Iran's new President and ostensible "moderate", Hassan Rouhani.

In 2011, Iran put to death more than twice as many people as it did the year before.