Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/96

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This address, accompanied with the gratuity, usually produces the innocence and the acquittal of the acused.

The slightest faults are severely punished in Perisa. The venality which prevails among the judges ensures, if not the administration of justice, at least the exercise of their functions. The repression of irregularities of every kind, is a source of revenue. The drunkard caught in a tavern, and the debauchee found in the house of ill fame, purchase impunity for their transgressions: murder and robbery alone are never pardoned, and no sum can save persons guilty of these crimes from punishment. When a man has been killed, his relatives run with loud cries to the residence of the judge, and demand the blood of the murderer, for whose apprehension the magistrate issues orders. If the murderer be opulent, a negotiation is opened. The judge proposes the requisite indemnification to the complainants, setting down a handsome sum for his own trouble as mediator; but if the relatives persist in demanding the murderer, the judge delivers him into their hands with these words: "I deliver up to you, agreeably to the law, the murderer of your kinsman; pay yourselves for the blood which he has spilled; but remember that God is generous and merciful." The officers then conduct the culprit to the spot directed by the relatives, and inflict on him such torments as they are directed by the relatives, unless the latter prefer glutting their rage on him themselves; but if the murderer, after enduring all their tortures and being left for dead by his executioners, should nevertheless recover, he is free both in regard to his liberty and his life, and the family of the person whom he killed has no right to persecute him any more. The rich and powerful man, who has imbrued his hand in the blood of an indigent fellow-creature, commonly expiates his guilt by a sum of money. The compromising mulct paid to the family of a murdered person, is usually rated at from fifty to one hundred toomauns; but if a Christian person happen by any evil chance to kill a Musulman, the sum commonly exacted is two hundred toomauns.

Criminal justice is administered by the civil magistrates, according to the ourf, or common law. There is neither public prison nor executioner: the only places of confinement are dark and filthy apartments in the houses of magistrates, whose servants perfom the office of executioners. There is no criminal court. The want of regular proceedings in so important a matter, seems to be an advantage to the Persians. Among them, house-breaking, assassination, and poisoning, were not long since crimes which might be said to be unknown. Murder was commonly committed either in a gust of passion or to