Sarabjit’s family petitions Pakistani president for mercy

CHANDIGARH - The family members of Indian national Sarabjit Singh, who is in a Pakistan jail facing death sentence, and a city-based NGO Wednesday said they have sent a petition to President Asif Ali Zardari to convert his death penalty into a life term.

“We sent this petition yesterday (Tuesday) to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, United Nations and to the chairperson of Amnesty International,” Arvind Thakur, president of Global Human Rights Council, told reporters.

“They have violated the universal human rights by not providing the right to defence to Sarabjit. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had confirmed his death penalty in the absence of his lawyer, who did not appear in the court intentionally,” Thakur said.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court rejected Sarabjit’s mercy petition June 24 after his lawyer failed to appear in the court.

Sarabjit has been languishing in Pakistani jails for the past 18 years and has been convicted on charges of masterminding four bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan in 1990 that claimed 14 lives.

“Moreover, the trial of Kasab case (the lone captured terrorist in Mumbai terror attack on Nov 26, 2008) in India has adversely affected the proceedings of Sarabjit’s case in Pakistan. Even our advocate friends in Pakistan now do not want the judiciary to slash the death sentence,” Thakur said.

Dalbir Kaur, Sarabjit’s sister, said: “The blasts in Pakistan happened in April 1990 whereas Sarbjit disappeared from his home in Bhikiwind in August 1990. Then how can he plan those blasts there?”

“He had strayed into Pakistan in a drunken state and had nothing to do with the blasts. But Pakistan police caught him and showed him as Manjeet Singh, an Indian offender.”

Sarabjit, who is lodged in Lahore’s high-security Kot Lakhpat jail, was to have been hanged April 1, 2008, but this was put off after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to re-examine the issue.

“Incompetent lawyers are handling Sarbjit’s case. That is why three of our organization’s lawyers, including me, have applied for a Pakistani visa to ensure the fair proceedings ahead,” said Thakur.

Daljit said: “We appeal to the Indian media to highlight this case. We also appeal to every Indian to send an e-mail to Zardari requesting the removal of death sentence.”

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