ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday commuted the death sentence of a convict who spent 23 years on death row, after concluding that he was a juvenile when he committed a murder almost three decades back, according to a media report.
A three-member apex court bench comprising Justices Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Aminuddin Khan heard the petition filed by convict Muhammad Anwar’s brother against his capital punishment, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
“Anwar was a juvenile at the time of the commission of offence within the meaning of section seven of Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 and is entitled to benefits of Presidential Order dated 13.12.2001,” Justice Malik was quoted as saying by the paper.
Therefore, Anwar’s conviction under section 302 (b) is maintained and his sentence of death is converted to imprisonment of life, the eight-page verdict said.
Anwar was in the ninth grade in 1993 when the police arrested him along with his brothers – Abdul Haq and Abdul Ghani – for killing a person during a scuffle, according to the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) – a Lahore-based non-profit organisation that represents the most vulnerable prisoners facing the harshest punishments, at home and abroad.
In 1998, a trial court sentenced Anwar to death despite the fact that he was only 17-year-old when the incident took place.
Two years after his conviction – on July 1, 2000 – the then government introduced the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, a law that prohibited execution of any convict under the age of 18 at the time of the offence, the paper said.
During this time, Anwar faced multiple death warrants only to be stayed at the eleventh hour and he lived through extreme prison conditions, damaging his mental health permanently, said the JPP.
Anwar’s family repeatedly appealed to the sessions’ court, the Lahore High Court, the Supreme Court and its human rights cell, the presidency and the Ministry of Interior to consider his juvenility.
However, the requests were either ignored or rejected by the forums. But, now the apex court has converted the petition into an appeal and the same was allowed, the paper added.