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Paraplegic man on Pakistan death row pleads for mercy

By agency reporter
April 27, 2016

A severely disabled prisoner on Pakistan’s death row has called on the country’s President to spare his life, as a stay of execution granted to him in January expired.

Abdul Basit, who is paralysed from the waist down, has had his execution halted at the last minute three separate times in the past year, after his lawyers raised concerns that his execution could be illegal. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has said Basit’s execution must comply with the country’s Prison Rules, which set Pakistan’s execution procedure – however, the rules contain no provisions for the hanging of prisoners using wheelchairs. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22352)

The Pakistani government has said it is carrying out an ‘inquiry’ into Basit’s medical condition, but has sought to block his lawyers from accessing the results of its tests on him. This weekend, the most recent stay of execution granted to Basit, in January this year, was due to expire.

In comments to the Daily Telegraph that were published on 25 April 2016, Basit said that he still hoped that the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, would grant a petition for mercy submitted by his lawyers. He said: “The last two stays [of execution] have given me a hint of hope that Mr President acknowledges that I am a helpless paralysed man who cannot even stand on my feet. I don’t know what will happen when my stay expires. I don’t know if they will hang me or let me live.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Méndez, has said that Basit’s execution would be illegal under international law, and has called on Pakistan to permanently commute Basit’s death sentence in line with the petition for mercy submitted to the country’s President.

Pakistan is thought to have the largest death row in the world, at over 8,000 people. The government resumed executions in December 2014, and has claimed to be executing only ‘terrorists.’ However, an investigation this year by the international human rights organisation Reprieve and the Justice Project Pakistan found that, of 351 prisoners executed since 2014, only 1 in 10 involved people who could be linked to militancy.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “It’s deeply worrying that the Pakistani authorities may now be gearing up to try and execute Abdul Basit – a paralysed man who once again faces the prospect of being hanged in his wheelchair. Following three previous last minute stays, the government has still given no explanation of how it plans to avoid a horribly botched execution. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has confirmed that Abdul Basit’s death sentence is illegal and should be commuted. The international community must urgently call on Pakistan’s President to halt this cruel spectacle, and grant Basit’s plea for mercy.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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