Pak­istan death row in­mate spared again

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Aoun Sahi and Shashank Ben­gali shashank.ben­gali @la­times.com Twit­ter: @SBen­gali Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Sahi re­ported from Islamabad and Times staff writer Ben­gali from Mumbai, In­dia.

ISLAMABAD, Pak­istan — Pak­istan granted a fourth re­prieve Tues­day to a man set to be ex­e­cuted for a mur­der com­mit­ted while he was a teenager in a case that has drawn con­dem­na­tion from hu­man rights groups.

The Pak­istani Supreme Court spared Shafqat Hus­sain, 24, hours be­fore he was due to be ex­e­cuted, fam­ily mem­bers said.

Lawyers and fam­ily mem­bers said that Hus­sain, who was ar­rested and sen­tenced to death in 2004 for the kid­nap­ping and slay­ing of a 7-year-old boy, was “tor­tured into con­fess­ing ” and that his body still bears scars from the beat­ings he re­ceived from po­lice.

Fam­ily mem­bers were grate­ful that Hus­sain’s life was spared but said they would con­tinue to press for his case to be re­opened.

“We are thank­ful to in­ter- na­tional and lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions which sup­ported us,” said Hus­sain’s el­der brother, Gul Za­man, who called on au­thor­i­ties to de­cide the case fairly and not sen­tence Hus­sain to death.

The last-minute de­ci­sions “should be stopped. We are nei­ther among living nor among dead. It’s like walk­ing on a tightrope all the time,” Za­man said.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has called the pro­ceed­ings a “farce” and said Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties have failed to es­tab­lish that Hus­sain was an adult at the time of the crime. The In­te­rior Min­istry has said that he was an adult, even though the age of ma­jor­ity is 18 in Pak­istan.

“Sen­tenc­ing a ju­ve­nile of­fender to death, let alone ex­e­cut­ing him, is a clear vi­o­la­tion of both in­ter­na­tional and Pak­istani law,” David Griffiths, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s deputy Asia-Pa­cific direc­tor, said be­fore the ex­e­cu­tion was halted.

The youngest of seven sib­lings from the Pak­istani-ad­min­is­tered por­tion of Kash­mir — the dis­puted moun­tain ter­ri­tory along the In­dian bor­der — Hus­sain could not af­ford a good lawyer in the early stages of his case, fam­ily mem­bers said. His mother has been un­able to visit him in jail in Karachi since 2006 be­cause of fi­nan­cial con­straints.

Pak­istan has ex­e­cuted at least 150 peo­ple since the gov­ern­ment lifted a mora­to­rium in De­cem­ber. Thou­sands more peo­ple re­main on death row, but lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights groups have raised ques­tions about the use of tor­ture and the fair­ness of tri­als in Pak­istan’s jus­tice sys­tem.

Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

MAKHNI BEGUM, left, and Shahzul­lah plan to con­tinue to press for their son’s case to be re­opened.

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