Pakistan death row inmate spared again
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.
MAKHNI BEGUM, left, and Shahzullah plan to continue to press for their son’s case to be reopened.