"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pakistan: Five Britons set to be hanged

Five British citizens are facing execution for drug offences in Pakistan amid a surge of hangings in the country.

The existence of the 5, including 1 woman, was disclosed in the Pakistani parliament by interior minister Chaudhry Nisar.

But he did not release further details - even their names, information about their crimes or the dates of their trials.

It is thought from the wording of his answer that the 5 may hold both UK and Pakistani passports.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was aware of 2 of the prisoners Mr Nisar mentioned.

There are a further 20 Britons who 'potentially' face the death penalty, he added, but they had either not yet been sentenced or still had a chance to appeal.

A total of 179 prisoners have been put to death in Pakistan since December, and there are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row.

Although Pakistan is obliged under the Vienna Convention to notify the British Consul whenever a British citizen or dual Pakistani-British national is detained, in practice this rarely happens, according to a Foreign Office source.

The source said British diplomats had repeatedly raised this problem with the Pakistani authorities.

Fears for the 5 have risen due to the surge in executions in recent months.

There had been no hangings since 2008, but Pakistan announced they would resume in the wake of the terrorist massacre at a school in Peshawar on December 16 last year, when 145 people were killed, including 132 children.

At first, the hangings mostly related to prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes. They were members of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the organisation behind the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

But a Mail on Sunday analysis of every hanging since the executions resumed reveals that although at least 11 men from these groups were hanged up to February 3, no members have been executed since.

The only alleged terrorists executed since then were 4 men who hijacked a plane in 1998 - they were all members of a provincial separatist group.

On March 10, the government announced it wanted to empty death row, and would start hanging prisoners who were neither terrorists nor murderers.

It has kept this promise. Under Pakistani law, the death penalty is available for crimes including blasphemy, drug-trafficking, kidnap and rape.

2 legal sources in Islamabad, who asked not to be named, said the reason for broadening the scope of executions was a threat from the LeJ leadership.

One source said that he had been told by senior police officers and government officials that after the government started to execute LeJ members, ministers were warned explicitly that if the hangings continued, politicians, their families and friends would become targets for assassination.

By this time, prime minister Nawaz Sharif had promised repeatedly that resuming executions should be seen as a 'reflection of the government's seriousness' to end terrorist violence.

The government's response, the source said, was to 'start executing everyone else instead'.

The 2nd legal source added: 'Various banned organisations threatened the government including police, judges and prison authorities to stop executions of their members or they would come after them, and it seems these executions have stopped.'

Since March, some weeks have seen more than 30 executions, and hangings carried out at less than 24 hours' notice - leaving prisoners' families no time to pay a final visit.

The execution of Aftab Bahadur, hanged on the basis of a confession to murder extracted through torture when he was just 15, provoked outrage around the world from human-rights campaigners.

There will be no further hangings in Pakistan until the end of Ramadan in mid-July.

Source: Daily Mail, June 20, 2015

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