Pakistan considering Sarabjit’s case: minister

October 5th, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Oct 5 (IANS) Pakistan was considering options of releasing Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh, arrested on charges of terrorism and facing death penalty, Law Minister Farooq H. Naek said Sunday, also calling for release of Pakistanis jailed in India.”We are studying the case and looking into … if there are any possibilities of releasing Sarabjit,” Naek told journalists.

“This issue (release of prisoners from either country held in the other) needs to be settled for better environment between the two countries,” said the minister.

Sarabjit Singh, also known as Manjit Singh, was convicted for his involvement in the 1990 serial bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that killed 14 people.

He maintains he is just a poor farmer who strayed into Pakistan from his village located close to the border. He says he is a victim of mistaken identity.

Sarabjit Singh has been sentenced to death, but his hanging was deferred on April 29 for 21 days and later until further orders following a campaign by his family members and rights activists.

His wife, sister and daughters visited Pakistan in April and appealed for his release.

Naek said his ministry will assess the case and that the authority to “pardon any prisoner lies with the president”.

He, however, said the government was looking into the case on humanitarian grounds.

According to the court record, Sarabjit Singh had confessed his involvement in the bomb blasts.

According to the record, he was arrested when he was crossing the border in August 1990. Nine days later, he was produced before a magistrate as ‘Manjit Singh’, a man wanted for acts of terrorism in Pakistan. Before the magistrate, he confessed to his crime.

Pakistan says he was working for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Indian intelligence agency, when he was arrested in Lahore.

He was awarded the death penalty by an anti-terrorism court in 1991, based on the original confession he made before a magistrate. His sentence was upheld by the high court and later by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court rejected his mercy petition in March 2006 and upheld the death sentence. Former president Pervez Musharraf rejected his mercy petition March 3.

However, with Naek’s statement Sunday the human rights organisations have pinned hopes that the new government may finally free Sarabjit Singh.

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