The family of a Pakistani man charged with murder as a child and due to be hanged tomorrow, have made heartfelt appeals to the government, complaining that a flawed justice system had allowed an innocent boy to undergo months of torture before he made a false confession.
Shafqat Hussain was just 14 in 2004 when he was arrested, burnt with cigarettes and had three fingernails extracted to force him to confess to killing a child, his lawyers say.
“For God’s sake, don’t deprive me of Shafqat, he is my last child. He is innocent,” said his mother, Makhani Begum, in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, where the family lives. “Oh, my Allah, save my Shafqat from falling victim to injustice,” she wailed, raising her hands in prayer.
Mr Hussain, now 25, who left school unable to read or write, was convicted despite a ban on torture and a provision that nobody should face the death penalty for a crime committed while a child. His lawyer inexplicably failed to ask him his age before trial.
His execution was brought forward after an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in December, unleashing a spate of executions. A court rejected a last-minute appeal on Tuesday and the only remaining hope lay with Pakistan’s government.
Mr Hussain’s brother, Manzoor, also begged for a change of heart. “I request them, in the name of Allah, and in the name of humanity, to stop his execution,” he said.
In response to international outcry, the country’s interior ministry had promised an investigation into Mr Hussain’s age, but his lawyers said neither they nor the family had been contacted.
Clive Stafford Smith, of the anti-death penalty group Reprieve, said: “If the execution goes ahead, Pakistan will join one of a handful of states such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia still sending children to the gallows.”