Supreme Court of Pakistan. File/ Reuters
Pakistan’s top court on Monday commuted the death sentence of a convict who had spent 23 years on death row, after determining he had committed the crime while still a minor, his defense lawyer said.
The Supreme Court's ruling was hailed by Justice Project Pakistan, a rights group that fought the years-long legal battle for Muhammad Anwar.
Anwar was arrested in 1993, after police accused him of participating in an attack that killed a villager. He was sentenced to death in 1998. He was 17 years old at the time of the attack, said the lawyer, Zainab Mahboob, expressing hope that Anwar will be released soon.
The court ruled the time spent in prison will be considered as served sentence, Mahboob added. She added that Anwar while in prison, had suffered three heart attacks since 2013.
Under Pakistani law, inmates are freed if they have already spent more than 14 years behind bars after being convicted and sentenced in a murder case.
Barrister Sarah Belal, executive director of Justice Project Pakistan, welcomed the development, saying “Pakistan has steadily been taking steps to ensure the fulfillment of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Last year, another court had commuted the death sentence of Muhammad Iqbal, who spent over 20 years on death row for a crime committed as a minor. “This, however, begs the question why children are being sentenced to death anyway when all local and international laws expressly prohibit it,” Bilal said.
Pakistan halted executions between 2008 and 2014 due to pressure from international human rights groups but lifted the moratorium following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in December 2014 that killed 150 people, nearly all of them children.
Since then, Pakistan has executed 515 inmates. More than 4,200 are still on death row at prisons in the country.
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On Tuesday the court said it wouldn't "indulge in the matter of state policy or foreign policy" in making a decision. "Our concern is the legality of the ruling of the speaker," said Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.
Former cricket star Khan lost his parliamentary majority last week and had been facing a no-confidence vote tabled by a united opposition that he was expected to lose on Sunday.
The opposition had expected to take power on Sunday after mustering enough votes to oust the cricketer-turned-politician, but the national assembly deputy speaker refused to allow the motion to proceed because of "foreign interference".
Elon Musk on Monday showcased the Tesla humanoid robot called 'Optimus' who greeted his followers with a 'Namaste', while performing a couple of Yoga postures comfortably.
The humanitarian and relief aid, which were carried on board of 28 aircraft in implementation of the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, benefitted as many as 6,386 families.
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq on Monday ruled that Imran Khan be shifted to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail from the Attock district jail, where he is currently incarcerated in the cipher case.