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Basit contracted meningitis in prison in 2010. Pic: Reprieve

Last-Minute Death Row Reprieve For Paraplegic

WT24 Desk

The execution of a paraplegic man who was due to be hanged has been delayed by Pakistani authorities, Sky News reports.  Abdul Basit, 43, has been on death row since 2009 and became paralysed from the waist down after contracting meningitis in prison in 2010. He is the country’s first known paraplegic to face execution, but his sentence for the killing of a man over a financial dispute was postponed an hour before it was due to be carried out.

A day earlier Pakistan’s Supreme Court refused to halt the execution, but a decision was later taken by a magistrate after he had talked to Basit.No further details have been disclosed and it is unclear if another date has been set. Under Pakistani law, executions can be delayed on medical grounds but a convict can only be pardoned by the country’s president. There has been no comment so far from President Mamnoon Hussain.

The man’s family, who were waiting outside the high-security prison in Faisalabad in eastern Punjab province to take their brother’s body after the execution, spoke of their relief at the postponement.  His sister, Shugufta Sultana, said they were “terrified and nervous”, adding: “We were waiting for bad news but God gave a new life to my brother…” Basit’s lawyers and human rights group Reprieve argued that hanging would constitute cruel and inhuman punishment.

Amnesty International has called for a moratorium on all executions in the country. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says 236 people have been executed since the authorities lifted a 2008 moratorium on executions in December, following a deadly Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in which 150 people, mostly children, were killed.

However, only one in 10 of the 236 prisoners executed since then has been convicted of a terror attack.

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