The right groups say Masih was just 15 at the time of his arrest. Also claim of torture to confess
Lahore : Pakistan on Wednesday went ahead with the execution of a Christian on death row allegedly tortured into confessing to murder as a 15-year-old, despite pleas of mercy pouring in for clemency for the man who already spent over two decades behind bars.
Aftab Bahadur Masih, 38 now, was executed in Kot Lakhpat Jail here after spending 23 years in prison. He was convicted of murdering a woman and her two children here in 1992.
Masih’s execution comes days after Shafqat Hussain – also convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child – was granted a last-minute reprieve.
The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and other rights groups said Masih was just 15 at the time of his arrest. They also claimed that Masih was tortured to confess the crime.
They say he was convicted on the basis of a confession extracted through torture from his co-accused Ghulam Mustafa, along with another eyewitness, and both have since retracted their statements (about his involvement in the crime).
Masih’s relatives and rights activists yesterday held a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club, demanding that his execution be halted besides appealing to President Mamnoon Hussain for a reprieve.
The date of birth on Masih’s birth certificate and national identity card, June 30, 1977, is not disputed by Pakistani police or the courts.
“Pakistan proceeded with Masih’s execution despite his having been sentenced to death when he was a child – in violation of both international and Pakistani law,” JPP said. Maya Foa, a member of Masih’s lawyers’ team, said: “To the last, Pakistan refused even to grant his lawyers the few days needed to present evidence which would have proved his innocence. This is a travesty of justice and tragedy for all those who knew Aftab Bahadur Masih.”
The Roman Catholic Bishop of Karachi, Joseph Coutts, had written asking for a delay, while other senior church officials, including the former Bishop of Rochester in Britain, sent a separate letter appealing for clemency.
Masih insisted he was innocent and said that when he was arrested, the police had asked for a Rs 50,000 bribe and said they would let him go but he could not arrange the money.
In an essay published in local dailies a day before his hanging, he wrote: “I am innocent. But I do not know whether that will make any difference.
“I have not given up hope, though the night is very dark… It would perhaps have been better not to have to think of what the police did to try to get me to confess falsely to this crime.”
Two more death row prisoners were executed in Lahore and Faisalabad today rising the execution tally to over 140 since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on the death penalty on December 17, 2014, a day after the Taliban gunmen attacked an army-run school in Peshawar Cantonment and killed 150 people, mostly children.