Indian seeks clemency for Sarabjit on humanitarian grounds

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New Delhi, Mar 18 (UNI) The Lok Sabha today stopped short of passing a resolution for saving the life of Sarabjit Singh after External Affairs Minister issued an appeal to Pakistan from the floor of the House, seeking ''clemency on humanitarian grounds'' for the Indian national facing the death sentence.

Responding to Mr Mukherjee's suo motu statement, members from all sides of the House sought the passage of a resolution and urged the government to take urgent steps to prevent Sarabjit Singh from being sent to the gallows as he was innocent and his was a case of mistaken identity. Sarabjit has been convicted on the charge of causing bomb blasts in the name of Manjit Singh.

In his response, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi persuaded the members not to press for a resolution as this was not the right course for conducting diplomacy and pointed out that Mr Mukherjee had issued an appeal.

Mr Mukherjee said Indian and Pakistani governments had put in place certain institutional arrangements since his visit to Pakistan in January 2007. These included a new agreement on consular access and a joint Judicial Committee to facilitate the resolution of consular issues.

A delegation of family members of missing Indian defence personnel was also able to visit Pakistan last year.

Pointing out that these initiatives might lead to an improvement of the 'situation for our prisoners,''Mr Mukherjee said," it is in this context and in the same spirit, that we appeal to the government of Pakistan to treat Sarabjit Singh's case with clemency on humanitarian grounds." The Minister said the government had received no formal initimation from the government of Pakistan with regard to the reported rejection of mercy petition of Sarabjit by the Pakistan President.

However, with the press reporting the issuance of a black warrant against Sarabjit and his execution slated for April one this year, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad had sought details from the Pakistani government.

Mr Mukherjee said the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a judgement on August 18, 2005, had upheld the award of death sentence to Sarabjit for causing explosions at various places in Pakistan.

At the instance of the Indian government, consular access was provided to Sarabjit for the first time on August 30, 2005, to the Indian High Commission. Thereafter, his national status was confirmed.

He said a review petition against the death sentence was also filed in the apex court of Pakistan. The petition was, however, dismissed by the court in March 2006.

A mercy petition was thereafter filed with the President of Pakistan which now, according to news reports, has been turned down, Mr Mukherjee said, while pointing out that "throughout this period, the Indian Government continued to urge the Pakistan Government to take a sympathetic and humanitarian view of this case." UNI MORE SH/SN RR GC1316

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