Sarabjit likely to be granted mercy

May 22nd, 2008 - 1:05 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Manish Chand and Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 21 (IANS) Sarabjit Singh, the Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan, could be granted mercy and handed over to New Delhi before Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s India visit next month, Pakistani and Indian officials hinted after minister-level talks between the two countries Wednesday. Officials from both sides, talking separately to IANS, hinted that Singh’s mercy petition pending with President Pervez Musharraf was likely to be accepted and he would be handed over to India.

“We expect that this development may take place by middle of next month and he (Sarabjit) will be sent to India,” an Indian official said on condition of anonymity.

He said that this issue was taken up with Pakistani authorities during the talks.

However, a Pakistani official said Singh may be handed over to India as a prisoner who has been sentenced to death for terrorism.

“Though there is no extradition treaty between the two countries, Islamabad is keen to hand him over as prisoner and not as a free man,” the Pakistani official told IANS requesting anonymity.

He said the issue was taken up during the talks by the Indian side and “we told them that it’s a terrorism case and he has been sentenced to death and can only be handed over to India as a prisoner.”

After talks here between Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, Pakistan Wednesday announced to release 97 Indian prisoners, mostly fishermen, as a goodwill gesture on the occasion of fourth round of talks between the two countries.

Qureshi said these prisoners will be sent to India on May 24.

Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani last week said he will “request the president look into the mercy appeal” of Sarabjit Singh.

His family members, human rights organizations and the Indian government have urged the president for granting clemency to Singh who was convicted for his alleged involvement in the 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that killed 14 people.

Singh says he is only a poor farmer and victim of mistaken identity, who strayed into Pakistan from his village located on the border. He has been given death sentence, but on April 29, his hanging was deferred for 21 days and again till further orders.

He was awarded the death penalty by an anti-terrorism court in 1991 and his sentence was upheld by a high court. The Supreme Court also rejected his mercy petition in March 2006 and upheld the death sentence. President Musharraf rejected his mercy petition on March 3 this year.

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