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Hope for Sarabjit: Pak may commute death term

Apr 20, 2008 08:49 AM IST India India

New Delhi: The Pakistan government has forwarded a proposal to President Pervez Musharraf to commute all death penalties into life imprisonment.

Sources told CNN-IBN that Sarabjit Singh’s death penalty likely to be commuted to life sentence. The case against Sarabjit is not as strong as originally made out.

But a decision is yet to be taken in this case. Meanwhile, fresh mercy petition to be filed on Monday.

Rehman Malik, the interior affairs advisor to Pakistan's Prime Minister, said that the presidency had not yet made a final decision regarding the case of convicted persons like Sarabjit.

Malik further made it clear that the government would not tolerate any act of terrorism.

Malik said, “Our policy is that we will not tolerate terrorism under any circumstances or in any form.”

Sarabjit's execution was deferred for 30 days Musharraf last month so that Pakistan's new government could review his case following an appeal for clemency from the Indian government. He was originally set to be hanged on April 1.

He was sentenced to death for alleged involvement in four bomb attacks in Punjab province in 1990 that killed 14 people. Sarabjit, currently being held in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail, today reiterated that he was innocent and that he had not committed the crimes he was convicted for.

"I would like to thank the Indian govt specially Mr Pranab Mukherjee. I would like to thank Barni who took time to look through my appeal and helped to send it to Mr Musharraf. I would also like to thank Mr Gillani who has kept in mind the relationship between both countries. He has sent this appeal to convert Sarabjeet's sentence into a life imprisonment. Our family will always be indebted to him. I think this is the first time a Pakistani PM has shown sympathetic attitude for an Indian prisoner," says Sarabjit's sister, Dalbir Kaur.

Sarabjit, who Pakistan claims is Manjit Singh, was sentenced to death in 1991 by a Pakistani court.

His family denies he is a spy as claimed by Pakistan and insists he accidentally strayed into Pakistani territory.

However, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday made a fresh appeal to the Pakistan government to grant clemency to Sarabjit on humanitarian grounds.

“I would appeal to the authorities in Pakistan to show clemency to Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner who has been in (a) Pakistani jail since 1990 and who has been under sentence of death for the last 17 years,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.

“Whatever the legal position may be, on humanitarian grounds alone, I would hope that mercy could be shown to this unfortunate human being,” he added.

Mukherjee’s remarks are an acknowledgement of how seriously New Delhi looks at the prospect of Sarabjit’s hanging and its likely impact on India-Pakistan relations.

There has not been any official response from Islamabad to the appeal. Sarabjit's mercy petition was rejected by Musharraf on March 3. Pakistan's Supreme Court too rejected Sarabjit's plea for clemency in March 2006.

(With PTI inputs)