Pakistan court delays paraplegic's execution

Abdul Basit's condition, which makes him unable to stand, might lead to a botched hanging, human rights groups said.

Story highlights

  • Convicted murderer Abdul Basit was scheduled to be hanged Tuesday
  • Human rights groups voiced concerns that his condition might lead to a botched hanging
  • Pakistan has executed 236 people this year, making it the country with the highest number of executions in the world

(CNN)A Pakistan court has postponed the execution of a paraplegic prisoner, after human rights groups voiced concerns that his hanging would constitute "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment."

Abdul Basit, who is paralyzed from the waist down, was scheduled to be hanged Tuesday.
    "Faisalabad Central Jail authorities have postponed the hanging after Lahore High Court granted a stay on Basit's hanging earlier today," a police official said.
    Basit's lawyer Wassam Waheed confirmed the last minute stay of execution.
    "The prison officials as well as the judicial officer and the MO entrusted to carry out the execution all felt that the execution not be carried out without violating the prison rules," Waheed said. "In this light, the judicial magistrate passed an order (staying the execution) in order to provide time to the prison authorities to get guidance from the Punjab government on this matter."

    Possibility of a botched hanging

    Human rights groups said that his condition, which makes him unable to stand, might lead to the possibility of a botched hanging, and would violate fundamental rights under Pakistan's constitution and international law.
    The Pakistani statute regulating executions specifies the length of the rope to be measured from "the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold."
    A rope that is too long puts the prisoner is at risk of decapitation. Too short and the prisoner may be subjected to protracted strangulation.
    Basit before his paralyzation.
    According to Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a Lahore-based organization that provides pro-bono legal representation to prisoners, Basit contracted tubercular meningitis while in the central Faisalabad prison back in July 2010, leading to his paralyzation.
    "Other than that, he suffers from spinal cord atrophy and loss of sphincter control," JPP said.

    Second stay of execution

    Basit, a former medical college administrator, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2009, although he has always maintained his innocence.
    It is the second time his execution has been postponed. He was sentenced to be hanged on July 29 but the courts accepted his petition the day before, staying the capital punishment. But on September 1, the Lahore High Court dismissed his petition.
    On Sunday, Human Rights Watch released a statement calling for the Pakistan government to commute Basit's sentence saying it underscored the "inherent cruelty of capital punishment by the execution of a person with a severe disability."
    "Rather than confronting the inherent cruelty of capital punishment, Pakistani officials are puzzling over how to hang a man in a wheelchair," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government should urgently commute Abdul Basit's sentence."

    Highest number of executions in the world

    According to the group, the Pakistani government has executed 236 people this year, the highest number of reported executions of any country in the world.
    Pakistan lifted a seven year moratorium on the death penalty on December 17, a day after Taliban splinter group Tehreek-e-Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar killing 145 people, mostly children.
    "Despite government claims that the death penalty is necessary to confront terrorism, only a small percentage of those executed were linked to militancy," Human Rights Watch said.