Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/88

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nouneed by Mahomet. There is another authority, which is followed in the adjudication of punishments to be inflicted on criminals: this is the ourf, which might be aptly called the common law.

A celebrated Persian poet relates a story of a judge who committed a capital crime, and obtained pardon through the skill and eloquence of his defence. He might have cited also the example of a wealthy but stupid man who extricated himself from a very serious affair by the sacrifice of large sums of money. These two facts would perfectly characterize the spirit and manner in which the law is administered.

One of the peculiar features of Persian jurisprudence, is its exemption from judicial forms. The most important suit is terminated in a few days; so that the parties are not reduced to beggary by the law's delay. A Persian cannot form any idea of our system of procedure, and the delays attendant on it: he prefers arbiry but speedy justice, to the tediousness of a regular investigation. Still less has he any conception of the equality of all men in the sight of the law, though it is inculcated in the Koran, and though despotim and venality alone have destroyed it. The protection which the law affords to the poor against the oppression of the rich, appears to him as but a dream: because in Persia the humbler classes are always sacrificed to the opulent and the powerful; and the man of quality there enjoys a number of privileges, which are denied to people of low condition. A servant must not complain of the dishonesty or cruel treatment of a grandee; nor must a tradesman demand of him the payment of a debt. This is a species of injustice which custom has erected into a principle; but there is an infinity of other circumstances, in which the laws are violated. Hence arises the aversion of the Persians to lawsuits: they are too well acquainted with the iniquity of judges, to wish to expose themselves to its effects.

In Persia, there is no profession corresponding with that of attorney or notary. When a contract is made, the only way to ensure its validity, is to obtain the signature of several witnesses: for it is right to observe, that in this case the system of evidence in civil and criminal matters is generally pursued agreeably to the Koran: but the sacred book also recommends to the faithful to be sincere in their testimony, were it even against themselves or their parents that they had to give evidence. The Persians are at no loss for reasons for evading this precept; and giving evidence is with them a profession, which, like any other, they will exercise for money.