Pak­istan hangs one ‘teen’ killer, re­jects an­other’s ap­peal


Pak­istan on Wed­nes­day hanged a man al­legedly tor­tured into con­fess­ing to mur­der as a mi­nor and re­jected an ap­peal from an­other rights groups say was con­demned as a ju­ve­nile, in the lat­est death row cases to draw in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion.

Aftab Ba­hadur Masih went to the gal­lows in the eastern city of La­hore af­ter more than two decades on death row, de­spite pleas for mercy from lawyers and church lead­ers, who said he was only 15 when he was con­victed.

“Aftab Ba­hadur Masih, a Chris- tian man, was hanged in Kot Lakh­pat pri­son of La­hore Wed­nes­day morn­ing,” an of­fi­cial at the jail told AFP on con­di­tion of anonymity. An­other pri­son of­fi­cial con­firmed the hang­ing.

Hours later the Supreme Court re­jected an ap­peal by Shafqat Hus­sain, con­victed of killing a young boy in 2004, when his lawyers and fam­ily say he was un­der 18 and there­fore not el­i­gi­ble for ex­e­cu­tion un­der Pak­istani law.

Pak­istan’s re­sump­tion of ex­e­cu­tions in De­cem­ber af­ter a sixyear mora­to­rium has prompted grave con­cerns from rights groups, the United Na­tions and the Euro­pean Union.

Crit­ics say the coun­try’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is marred by po­lice tor­ture and poor legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion, mean­ing many of those now fac­ing the scaf­fold have not had a fair trial.

Hus­sain’s case has at­tracted par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion from in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights cam­paign­ers and on Tues­day he was granted a fourth stay of ex­e­cu­tion in five months.

Age Mys­tery

But on Wed­nes­day the Supreme Court re­jected an ap­pli­ca­tion by Hus­sain’s lawyers to set up a ju­di­cial com­mis­sion to de­ter­mine his age.

“Sorry, the pe­ti­tion is dis­missed. This mat­ter has to come to an end some­day,” said Chief Jus­tice Nasirul-Mulk, the head of a three-judge panel.

“This court has al­ready dis­missed the plea re­gard­ing age. For the court, the case has al­ready been closed when the re­view pe­ti­tion was dis­missed.”

The rul­ing clears an­other ob­sta­cle to Hus­sain’s hang­ing, though it was not im­me­di­ately clear when a new death war­rant would be is­sued.

Hus­sain’s age has proved dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine with any cer­tainty. His sup­port­ers say he was 14 or 15 at the time of the killing, but po­lice in­sist he was over 20.

Ex­act birth records are not al­ways kept in Pak­istan, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple from poor fam­i­lies like Hus­sain’s.

The in­de­pen­dent Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan said the coun­try has now hanged over 150 con­victs since restart­ing ex­e­cu­tions in De­cem­ber fol­low­ing a shock­ing Tal­iban school massacre — more than Saudi Ara­bia over the same pe­riod.

Mercy Plea Re­jected

In the Masih case, a last-minute plea for cle­mency from rights groups, church lead­ers and the Jus- tice Project Pak­istan (JPP), a hu­man rights law firm han­dling his case, fell on deaf ears.

He had spent 23 years in pri­son af­ter be­ing con­victed of mur­der in the eastern city of La­hore in 1992.

Sup­port­ers say Masih was tor­tured into con­fess­ing to the crimes, as were two of the wit­nesses against him — in­clud­ing his co-ac­cused Ghu­lam Mustafa — who have both since re­tracted their state­ments.

In a mov­ing es­say from his con­demned cell, pub­lished by Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per a day be­fore his ex­e­cu­tion, Masih re­flected on his life on death row, dur­ing which time he re­ceived nu- mer­ous death war­rants.

Bri­tish anti-death penalty cam­paign group Re­prieve con­demned Masih’s hang­ing as a “trav­esty of jus­tice” and a “shame­ful day for Pak­istan’s jus­tice sys­tem.”

“To the last, Pak­istan re­fused even to grant his lawyers the few days needed to present ev­i­dence which would have proved his in­no­cence,” Maya Foa, direc­tor of Re­prieve’s death penalty team, said in a state­ment.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional es­ti­mates that Pak­istan has more than 8,000 pris­on­ers on death row, many of whom have ex­hausted all av­enues of ap­peal.

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