ISLAMABAD: Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, convicted for alleged involvement in bomb attacks in 1990 in Pakistan, has sent a fresh clemency appeal to the President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, media report said today.
This is the fifth mercy petition from Sarabjit, who was sentenced to death for alleged involvement in a string of bombings in Punjab in 1990 that killed 14 people. The 49-year-old Indian is currently being held at Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore and has been on death row for over 20 years.
Sarabjit’s fresh petition, which includes a document with the signatures of 100,000 Indians, urges Zardari to reciprocate the recent release of Pakistani virologist Khalil Chishti by India, The Express Tribune reported. Chishti, who was convicted of involvement in the murder of a man in Ajmer in 1992, was recently freed on bail by India’s Supreme Court.
The court subsequently allowed him to visit Pakistan to meet his family.
Attached to Sarabjit’s mercy petition are two letters addressed to Zardari by Delhi’s Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari and Syed Muhammad Yamin Hashmi, the caretaker of the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Sarabjit’s counsel Owais Sheikh said his client wrote a two-page letter to be sent to the President. “I’ve forwarded both the petition and the letter to President Zardari,” Sheikh said.
The petition states Chishti’s release by India has rekindled hopes for Sarabjit. “This has given my client a new hope for freedom,” said Sheikh.
Sarabjit has maintained that his was a case of mistaken identity, since even the FIR was not registered in his name. “I have spent 22 years in prison for a crime I have not committed,” he wrote in the petition.
The FIR had nominated Manjeet Singh for carrying out four bomb blasts in different cities of Punjab, according to the petition.
Sarabjit’s lawyer said he had documentary proof that his client was in India at the time of bombings. “Manjeet Singh was indeed a terrorist but the authorities have mistaken Sarabjit for Manjeet,” Sheikh said.
In his letter to the President, Maulana Bukhari of the Jama Masjid pointed out that Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur had met him personally and provided “vital evidence” which proved Sarabjit’s innocence.
“Singh should be freed on humanitarian grounds, which will not only help in promoting goodwill between the two neighbours but will also result in promoting communal harmony among Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims of India,” Bukhari wrote. Sarabjit, imprisoned since 1990, was given the death sentence under Pakistan’s Army Act for alleged involvement in the bomb blasts.
A mercy petition sent by him to the army chief rejected with a direction that it should be forwarded to the President. Though Sarabjit was set to be hanged in 2008, Pakistani authorities put off his execution indefinitely after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani intervened.
His family has said he wandered across the border in an inebriated condition and that he was arrested by Pakistani authorities after being mistaken for Manjeet Singh.