Death row prisoner’s case may be re-examined during the 72-hour reprieve granted by President Mamnoon Hussain.
President Mamnoon Hussain has postponed an execution scheduled for Thursday of a death row prisoner condemned as a teenager after appeals by human rights groups for a review of his case, officials said.
The president signed the order late Wednesday after a furor on leading private news television channel talk shows. An anti-terrorism court in Karachi last week ordered that Shafqat Hussain, convicted of killing a seven-year-old boy in 2004, be hanged on March 19.
Hussain’s case has triggered outrage from rights campaigners, who complain he did not get a fair trial and was only 14 at the time of his sentencing. “The president has postponed the execution of Shafqat Hussain for 72 hours,” a presidency official told Newsweek.
Prison officials in Karachi, where the execution was going to take place, confirmed that they had received the orders from Islamabad and had cancelled the scheduled hanging. Officials declined to say further when asked if the case will be reopened or Hussain’s birth certificate will be taken into account as an evidence of him being a minor when charged of murder.
Hussain was working as a watchman in Karachi in 2001 when a seven-year-old boy went missing from the neighborhood. A few days later the boy’s family received calls from Hussain’s mobile demanding a ransom of half a million rupees, according to legal papers. Hussain was arrested and during his first interrogation admitted kidnapping and killing Umair, whose body was found in a plastic bag in a stream. Hussain later withdrew his confession, saying he had made it under duress, but the case came before an anti-terrorism court, which sentenced him to death.
Hussain had been due to face the noose on Jan. 14 but the government halted the execution amid protests about his age, and ordered an investigation.
Reintroducing the death penalty was part of Pakistan’s move to step up the fight against militants. So far 48 convicts have been hanged to death.
The United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to re-impose its moratorium on the death penalty. Human rights group Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.
Supporters of the death penalty in Pakistan argue that it is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy. Critics meanwhile say that Pakistan’s courts are largely unjust forums for decided cases, with rampant police torture, poor legal representation for victims, and unfair trials.