Congress defends delay in Afzal hanging

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New Delhi, May 22 (UNI) Even while defending the delay in the execution of Parliament attack case convict Mohammed Afzal Guru, the Congress today sought to downplay the reported statement of Home Minister Shivraj Patil linking the hanging of Afzal and Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh who is facing death row in Pakistan for his alleged role in serial blasts.

''Mr Patil is the Home Minister of India. He had issued a statement. I have not studied the text of the statement. I think he has given a clarification also. I cannot interpret or misinterpret his statement,'' AICC Spokesman M Veerappa Moily told mediapersons.

Asked if the Congress concurred with Mr Patil drawing a parallel between the cases of Sarabjit and Afzal Guru, he evaded a direct reply, but accused the BJP of using the Afzal issue for its political mileage.

Referring to the clemency plea of Afzal pending before the government, Mr Moily said Afzal was the 19th among the convicted people in different cases whose clemency petition is pending.

''How can you pick up Afzal and hang him to satisfy the BJP?,'' he asked, and said the government had to follow some procedures.

Moreover, the mercy petition of one Murugan, who was convicted in the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case, was pending for about 15 years.

The NDA was in power for six years till 2004. But they had not hanged him.

In this context, he said Sarabjit case was 17 years old, that too in a country (Pakistan) where there was a military rule. ''But still they have not hanged him." Pointing out that India was a democracy, Mr Moily said, ''The rule of law is the same for all.'' ''How could the demand be made for hanging Afzal Guru when the government had been pressing for clemency for Sarabjit Singh on death row in Pakistan,?" Mr Patil had asked on Tuesday. ''You want Afzal Guru to be hanged. (At the same time) you are saying don't hang a person who has gone to Pakistan (Sarabjit),'' Mr Patil had told reporters in Latur, apparently referring to the 'contradictory' stand of the BJP on the two issues.

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