Thursday, March 29, 2012

India orders stay of Rajoana execution after appeals for mercy

India has granted a stay of execution in the case of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who was found guilty of playing a key role in the assassination of the chief minister of the north-western Punjab state in 1995.

The hanging scheduled for Saturday would have been India's first capital sentence in eight years.

Indian press reports confirmed the country's home ministry had ordered a stay of execution to allow time for consideration of mercy petitions to President Pratibha Patil by top Sikh clerics. The chief minister of Punjab also met Patil on Wednesday night to ask for clemency on Rajoana's behalf.

This week, a court in the Punjab state capital, Chandigarh, rejected an appeal by the director of the jail where Rajoana is being held.

Rajoana was convicted in 2007 after an 11-year trial and has refused to plead for clemency, although co-conspirators have successfully appealed against their sentences.

Many Punjab traders and businesses observed a one-day strike on Wednesday called by Sikh organisations in protest at the planned execution. Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed around Punjab in recent days to maintain order.

Some groups have called him a "living Sikh martyr" and there are fears the execution could reopen old wounds.

"The death penalty is always wrong and the Indian government should immediately stop this execution," said Meenakshi Ganguly, south Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

With thanks:
The Guardian

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