Asia

Pakistani man Shafqat Hussain given death row reprieve

Photo of Shafqat Hussain
Image caption Shafqat Hussain's lawyers say he was a minor at the time of his conviction

The execution of a Pakistani man convicted of manslaughter has been postponed hours before he was due to be hanged, prison officials say.

It is the fourth time Shafqat Hussain, who was found guilty of kidnapping and killing a child in 2004, has been given a stay of execution.

His lawyers say he was 14 when he was charged, and was tortured into making a confession.

The authorities however believe he was 23 when he committed the crime.

The execution was halted after Pakistan's Supreme Court agreed to consider an appeal.

Shafqat Hussain's family say they cannot believe the execution was halted.

"We were not expecting this, we had even found a place for his grave in a local cemetery here in Muzaffarabad," his brother Manzoor told the AFP news agency.

Rights groups have petitioned the Pakistani authorities throughout the past week, calling for the execution to be halted.

A spokeswoman for the charity Reprieve told the BBC that both the president and the Supreme Court had been intensely lobbied before the latest stay of execution.

Image caption A variety of human rights groups and lawyers have joined Shafqat Hussain's mother (pictured) to proclaim his innocence

'Failed at every turn'

"At one point on Monday - before the latest stay - the Supreme Court ordered a hearing to be held four hours after his scheduled execution. It was a Kafkaesque situation," a Reprieve spokeswoman told the BBC.

Reprieve argues that Pakistan's legal system has failed Shafqat Hussain at every turn and that even now his case has not been properly investigated.

"Ten years later, Shafqat still bears the physical and psychological scars from the torture," a petition filed by human groups to President Mamnoon Hussain says.

"The execution of a juvenile offender is strictly prohibited under both Pakistani and international human rights law."

A group of UN human rights experts has also called for the execution to be halted, pointing out that "he did not receive a fair trial and that the state-appointed lawyer never raised the fact that he was a child at the time of the alleged offence".

Image copyright Reprieve
Image caption Campaigners in London handed in a petition to the Pakistani High Commission on Monday

Executions around the world

  • Pakistan has executed about 150 people since December 2014, almost all of them this year
  • Figures for executions in other countries in 2015 are not yet available
  • By the end of 2014, the countries with the highest number of reported executions were: Iran: 289, Saudi Arabia: 90, Iraq: 61, USA: 35, and Sudan: 23
  • In 2013 the numbers were: Iran: 369, Iraq: 169, Saudi Arabia: 79, Somalia: 68, USA: 39
  • China and North Korea refuse to divulge information on the number of executions that take place within their borders

Further hangings

Pakistan is on course to have one of the highest rates of executions in the world. It executed three other men on the same day that Shafqat Hussain was reprieved.

Activists are petitioning to halt Wednesday's planned execution of Aftab Bahadur Masih, who they argue was also a minor at the time of his crime. He was convicted of a double murder in 1992.

The Pakistani government scrapped a moratorium on capital punishment in the aftermath of a deadly attack on a school in Peshawar - in which more than 150 school pupils and teachers were killed by the Taliban.

Pakistan has the world's largest number of death row inmates, with more than 8,000 people reported to be awaiting execution.

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