Plans to execute a disabled man at dawn on Wednesday morning this week were stayed with hours to go by the government of Pakistan, according to his lawyers.
The execution of Abdul Basit, a paraplegic, had previously been postponed several times after rights groups raised concerns about how a man in a wheelchair would mount the scaffold.
The latest delay, news of which emerged on Tuesday, was reported by lawyers of the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a nonprofit human rights law firm, which welcomed what it described as a “last-minute decision”. The government is understood to have postponed Basit’s execution for two months, according to the campaigning human rights charity Reprieve.
Convicted of murder in 2009, Basit’s legs were paralysed after he contracted meningitis in prison.
Maya Foa, the director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “This welcome move comes with only hours before a paralysed man was set to face a horrific execution. It has to be hoped that the Pakistan government will now reconsider its rush to the gallows, which has seen an estimated 300 people hanged since December.”
Sarah Belal, Basit’s lawyer, said: “The government should be commended for recognising that to go ahead with it would have been needlessly cruel. Basit has already suffered terribly due to medical neglect while in prison.”
Pakistan’s human rights commission said earlier this week that it had written to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seeking to delay the execution and that prison authorities were awaiting an answer from the government on how to proceed with the hanging.
A series of executions have been carried out in Pakistan since the government scrapped an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty following the Taliban massacre of more than 130 pupils at a military school in Peshawar in December last year.
Controversy surrounds many of the cases, including that of Shafqat Hussain, who was hanged in August, despite claims he was a juvenile at the time he was said to have murdered a child. – © Guardian News & Media 2015