Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/95

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76
PERSIA.

observed, that women personally defend themselves. They appear before the court covered with a veil, and remain in the small separate apartment already mentioned. The judge cannot impose silence on them, but viva voce; he must not have recourse to corporal punishment; and what power would the voice of ten judges have over that of an enraged woman?

For want of witnesses, the Koran is brought. The judge, after respectfully kissing and raising it to his forehead, presents it to the defendant, to do the same, and receives the oath of the latter on the open book. If the defendant swears, he gains his cause, as it is not to be supposed that the allurement of worldly and perishable lucre would induce a man to incur the punishment reserved for perjury in a future life.

When the defendant is summoned on account of debt, and he is unable to pay it, the Koran enjoins that a delay be allowed him: but if he has several times availed himself of this indulgence without fulfilling his engagements, or if he has betrayed in his conduct a want of integrity, he is delivered to his creditor, who has a right to do with him what he pleases, except maiming or putting him to death. He may then sell him as well as his wife, detain him prisoner, maltreat him, and beat him publicly in the streets of the town. The bankrupt, nevertheless, is favoured: as long as it can be proved that he is living, his creditors cannot obtain of the ecclesiastical magistrates authority to sell his effects and property; so that they are obliged to apply for the interference of the civil judge, who grants them the exercise of their rights.

Quarrels and assaults in the streets are usually punished with a fine and the bastinado. Whenever any disturbance takes place, an officer of the police rushes among the combatants, striking indiscriminately the aggressors, the persons assaulted and the lookers-on, who take to their heels. Such of them as he can secure he carries before the judge, driving them along and belabouring them with his staff. On reaching the tribunal, after the unfortunate creatures have suffered this ill-treatment, the judge very coolly inquires their names and professions. The sentence is usually followed by the infliction of the bastinado as well on the complainant as on the aggressor; and they are moreover obliged to pay a fine. As the money goes into the coffers of the judge, the fine is never remitted; but it is possible to avoid the beating and final bastinado. To this end the person in custody need only say to the officer, before they reach the court: "My good friend and brother, why should you thus seek to be the death of an innocent man? I have such a sum of money in my purse; take half of it for yourself, and give the other to the judge's porter, that I may not receive punishment."