India issues fresh plea for clemency for Sarabjit

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New Delhi, Apr 18: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday that the Government has made a fresh appeal to Pakistan to grant clemency to Sarabjit Singh, the Indian on death row in that country, as his execution date is approaching.

Mukherjee hoped mercy would be shown to Sarabjit who has been in a Pakistani jail since 1990. "I would appeal to the authorities in Pakistan to show clemency to Sarabjit," Mukherjee said in a statement to the media. "Whatever the legal position may be, on humanitarian grounds alone, I would hope that mercy could be shown to this unfortunate human being," he added. According to official sources in Islamabad the Indian government had taken up Sarabjit's case with the new coalition government shortly after it assumed office last month.

The Indian government is now hopeful that Sarabjit will be shown clemency. "The Pakistan Government is aware that there is cross-party support in India for the plea for clemency for Sarabjit. Though there are no indications as yet from the Pakistan government, we are hopeful that he will be shown clemency," he added.

To prove that Sarabjit's was a case of mistaken identity, his family gave Burney an FIR wherein he was reported as missing.

Sarabjit's family members are expected to visit Pakistan on Sunday, to appeal to Pakistani leaders to grant him clemency. President Pervez Musharraf had earlier rejected his appeal for clemency.

Pakistan's former Human Rights Minister Ansar Burney, on a recent visit to India, had rekindled hopes of Sarabjit's release, saying that Sarabjit could have been "a victim of mistaken identity".

Burney, who had played a significant role in the release of another Indian, Kashmir Singh, has urged the new Pakistan Government to consider converting Sarabjit's death sentence into life imprisonment on humanitarian grounds as he had spent more time than a life sentence on death row in Pakistani jails.

Sarabjit has been on death row since the Pakistan's Supreme Court rejected his petition for mercy in March 2006. He has been accused of having played a major role in serial blasts across Pakistan, which claimed at least 14 lives in 1991.

Earlier he was to be hanged on April 1, but the hanging was put off by a month after India made an appeal to the Pakistan government.

His family denies he was a spy as claimed by Pakistan and insists he accidentally strayed into Pakistani territory. Singh's family has stated that files containing evidence that would help in his acquittal are lost in Pakistan. Pakistani officials meanwhile say Singh was arrested while trying to slip back into India after the bomb blasts.

ANI

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