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Convicted Indian spy dies after Pakistan prison attack

Family claims that guards must have aided assault

Sarabjit Singh's death has sparked outrage in India (AFP photo by Narinder Nanu) Sarabjit Singh's death has sparked outrage in India (AFP photo by Narinder Nanu)
  • Swati Deb, New Delhi
  • India
  • May 2, 2013
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Convicted Indian spy Sarabjit Singh died in the early hours of Thursday morning, six days after being attacked in a Lahore prison, prompting a furious response from India and further straining ties between the two neighbors.

Following a week in which politicians and Singh's family vented their anger at Pakistani authorities and children gave candlelit prayers, Singh died from a heart attack in Lahore's Jinnah Prison hospital after an attack by inmates left him with a fractured skull.

“The criminals responsible for this barbaric and murderous attack on him must be brought to justice,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement on Thursday.

Singh was arrested in 1991 and sentenced to death for four bombings a year earlier which killed 14 people in Lahore and Faisalbad. His family maintain that he was a drunken farmer who wandered over the border by mistake.

Residents of Singh’s hometown of Bhikhiwind, which straddles the frontier, protested on Thursday at news of his death as Indian politicians lined up to condemn Pakistan.

“Sarabjit Singh’s extra-judicial killing is yet another grim reminder that expecting Pakistan to follow due process of law in any sphere is futile,” said Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate for elections next year.

The leader of the party, Rajnath Singh, called for the government to downgrade diplomatic relations with Pakistan in response to Singh's death.

Singh’s family had only just returned from visiting him in Lahore when they were informed of his death. 

The family has said that there is no way that Pakistani inmates could have attacked Singh without the help of guards because they are separated inside the prison. They accused Pakistani officials including President Asif Ali Zardari of direct responsibility for his death ahead of national elections on May 11.

“Pakistan has martyred an innocent citizen. Zadari killed my brother for vote-banking politics as elections are due in the country,” said Singh’s sister Dalbir Kaur.

Pakistan, which called the attack last week “a scuffle,” issued a statement on Thursday saying it would hand over Singh’s body to Indian authorities “at the earliest possible” time.

The government said it has ordered a judicial inquiry into Singh’s death.

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