ucanews.com reporter, Karachi
Updated: June 09, 2015 08:11 PM GMT
The human rights body of Pakistan’s Catholic Church is pleading with President Mamnoon Hussain to grant clemency to a Christian death row convict who was a juvenile at the time of the alleged crime.
In an urgent mercy plea, the National Commission for Justice and Peace, or NCJP, urged the president to spare the life of Aftab Bahadur Masih, whose execution is scheduled for June 10.
“Bahadur was sentenced to death for a murder that took place in September 1992. He has now spent 23 years on death row,” the letter states. “Alarmingly, there is strong evidence to suggest that Bahadur is innocent.”
Bahadur and his co-accused, Ghulam Mustafa, were convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of the wife and sons of Akeel Bari, the complainant.
Bahadur was 15 years old when he was arrested; he was tortured and then sentenced to death during a speedy trial. Critics say the verdict was based on tainted evidence and witnesses in the case now say he is innocent.
The incident received significant press attention, becoming highly politicized because the victims’ family members were influential traders in Lahore. The investigating officers were believed to be under a great deal of pressure to solve the crime and ensure there were speedy convictions.
“He was convicted on the basis of evidence from two witnesses who implicated him in the crime — his co-accused and an alleged eyewitness,” the NCJP letter stated. “However, both witnesses have since recanted, saying that they only implicated Bahadur because they were being tortured.”
Bahadur himself has always insisted on his innocence. Like many of the witnesses in the case, Bahadur claimed he was subjected to severe torture at the hands of the police.
The Church’s mercy plea comes three days after the Archbishop of Karachi, Joseph Coutts, wrote a letter to President Hussain to draw his attention to Bahadur’s imminent execution.
According to the Justice Project Pakistan, a law firm that takes up cases of persecuted death row prisoners, a death warrant has been issued for Bahadur and he is scheduled to be hanged early Wednesday morning.