Pakistani court commutes death sentence after 23 years

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (AP) — Pakistan’s top court yesterday commuted the death sentence of a convict who had spent 23 years on death row, after determining he had committed the crime while still a minor, his defence lawyer said.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was hailed by Justice Project Pakistan, a rights group that fought the years-long legal battle for Muhammad Anwar.

Anwar was arrested in 1993, after police accused him of participating in an attack that killed a villager. He was sentenced to death in 1998. He was 17-years-old at the time of the attack, said the lawyer, Zainab Mahboob, expressing hope that Anwar will be released soon.

The court ruled the time spent in prison will be considered as served sentence, Mahboob added. She added that Anwar while in prison, had suffered three heart attacks since 2013.

Under Pakistani law, inmates are freed if they have already spent more than 14 years behind bars after being convicted and sentenced in a murder case.

Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan Barrister Sarah Belal welcomed the development, saying “Pakistan has steadily been taking steps to ensure the fulfilment of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.