Islamabad, Pakistan (Reprieve) – This morning at 0430 Pakistan time (0030 UK time), Aftab Bahadur was executed in Lahore, after the Pakistani authorities refused to allow his lawyers to secure key evidence that Mr Bahadur was innocent.
Mr Bahadur was just 15 years old when he was sentenced to death for murder, following a conviction which was overwhelmingly based on ‘evidence’ extracted under torture.
Yesterday, the Lahore High Court had dismissed Mr Bahadur’s request for a stay of execution, denying his lawyers time to produce new evidence of his innocence. Mr Bahadur was convicted in 1992 on the basis of testimony from two eyewitnesses – both of whom later recanted their statements against him, explaining that they had been given under torture and duress.
Mr Bahadur himself had been tortured at the time of his arrest, and had spent 23 years in a death cell in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, devoting much of his time in prison to poetry and art.
In the days following the issuing of the death warrant for Mr Bahadur – a Catholic – a number of religious leaders from around the world had written to the President of Pakistan to ask that his execution be stopped.
Pakistan proceeded with Mr Bahadur’s execution despite his having been sentenced to death when he was a child – in violation of both international and Pakistani law.
Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights charity Reprieve said: “This is a truly shameful day for Pakistan’s justice system. Aftab was subjected to almost every injustice conceivable. Just 15 years old when he was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death, he spent 23 years languishing on death row for a crime he didn’t commit before being executed in the early hours of this morning. To the last, Pakistan refused even to grant his lawyers the few days needed to present evidence which would have proved his innocence. This is a travesty of justice, and tragedy for all those who knew Aftab.”