Pakistani government investigators have confiscated and tampered with evidence relating to the case of Shafqat Hussain, whose recent stay of execution is due to expire this week.
Last month, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar announced the stay for Mr Hussain, who was arrested as a juvenile and handed a death sentence for murder in 2004 on the basis of a ’confession’ extracted from him after nine days of torture.
After Mr Hussain’s legal team at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) produced evidence suggesting he was under 18 at the time of the arrest, Pakistan’s Federal Investigations Authority (FIA) was ordered to investigate the claims.
Since then, however, it has emerged that the FIA has:
- Confiscated and subsequently refused to release a school register, which could hold evidence of Mr Hussain's age at the time of his arrest;
- Cancelled a government-issued birth certificate for Mr Hussain, which showed his age as under 18 at the time of his arrest;
- Withheld information from Mr Hussain’s legal team at JPP, instead leaking that information to the media;
- Announced to several media outlets that the inquiry had been concluded, and that Mr Hussain was not a juvenile at the time of his arrest, one day before his legal team were due to meet with investigators.
The 30-day stay of execution granted by the President may expire on 19 April (Sunday), and there are fears that Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Court will issue a new death warrant without a fair and impartial inquiry into Mr Hussain's age, torture or intellectual disability.
Sarah Belal, director of Justice Project Pakistan, said: “From the outset, this ‘investigation’ has been dogged by a total lack of transparency – and now it seems that, worse, the authorities are actively using it to cover up evidence that could exonerate my client. The fact is that strong evidence exists that the Pakistani authorities have wrongfully sentenced a child to death – and is now using undue influence to keep this a secret. Instead of rushing to execute him before the truth can come out, the government must right this terrible injustice to Shafqat, while also investigating the hundreds more like him.”
Source: Reprieve, April 14, 2015
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