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Outrage grows over Muslim's execution

Government accused of hasty secret hanging

Outrage grows over Muslim's execution
Guru's family claim they were not notified of his execution
Swati Deb, New Delhi

February 11, 2013

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Rights groups have led a chorus of disapproval over Saturday’s execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru, a Muslim convicted of an attack on parliament in 2001.

Criticism mounted over the weekend after Guru’s family said they were not notified that he would be executed in New Delhi. The execution took place just six days after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a mercy petition, the last stage of appeal.

Government officials said yesterday that Guru’s family were informed about the execution by “express post” which the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) called a “shameful explanation.” He was buried inside Tihar prison in New Delhi.

“The … hurry with which Afzal Guru was hanged, accompanied by the flouting of all established norms by not giving his family their legal right to meet him before taking him to the gallows, clearly indicates that there were political considerations behind this,” said a statement from PUCL.

Shashikumar Velath, programs director at Amnesty International India, said it was time for the government to abolish the death penalty altogether.

“We condemn the execution in the strongest possible terms. This very regrettably puts India in opposition to the global trend towards moving away from the death penalty,” he said, adding that Guru had not received a fair trial.

India has practiced an informal moratorium on capital punishment in recent years: although it has sentenced a number of people to death, most are never carried out.

At the end of November Ajmal Kasab, the only survivor of the group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was hanged in the country's first execution since 2004.

Guru, a native of Jammu and Kashmir state in India’s restive northwest, was convicted of helping five Islamic terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Tioba and Jaish-e-Mohammad groups to attack parliament on December 1, 2001.

Security forces shot dead all five of the gunmen after they claimed the lives of 12 people, including civilians, prompting Hindu groups to make outspoken public calls for the death penalty.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, urged India to “end this distressing use of executions as a way to satisfy some public opinion.”

Although parties at different ends of India’s political spectrum mostly backed Guru's execution in a display of rare agreement, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, broke with his ruling coalition allies in New Delhi by condemning the decision.

“Generations of Kashmiris will identify with Afzal Guru,” he said in a televised interview. “You [the government] will have to prove to the world that the death penalty is not used selectively.”

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