Execution of man convicted as teenager on hold in Pakistan

Shafqat Hussain is at the left, and pictured with his family on the right.

Story highlights

  • Pakistan postpones inmate's execution for the second time
  • Shafqat Hussain was convicted at age 14; his family says confession extracted under torture

Islamabad (CNN)Pakistan has ordered a stay of execution of a man who was convicted of manslaughter while he was 14 years old.

Shafqat Hussain, 24, was scheduled to be hanged on Thursday, but a government official confirmed Wednesday night with a tweet that Hussain will not be hanged and that his case will be reviewed for another 72 hours.
    "We are still unclear on what investigation can be done in 72 hours," said Shahab Siddiqui, Hussain's lawyer. "We will be coordinating with the government and are happy to provide any documentation they would need."
    Hussain's case has triggered outrage from human rights campaigners, who complain he did not get a fair trial and had confessed to murder after being severely tortured by the police.
    His family says Hussain, at the age of 14 was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for kidnapping and killing a child while he was employed as a security guard in 2004. Unable to afford legal counsel the state appointed him a defense lawyer, whom, according to human rights groups, failed to provide any evidence or claim that Hussain was a juvenile.
    This meant Hussain was tried as an adult in an anti-terrorism court.
    A social media campaign with the hashtag #SaveShafqat trended in Pakistan and a small protest was held in the capital to raise awareness about his case.
    Shafqat was calm when he thought he was going to be executed, Manzoor Hussain, his brother told CNN. "He had said that if I don't get justice in this world, I will get it in my afterlife."
    "I can't tell you what kind of night my family has had. I close my eyes and I want to forget. I can't express the agony we have gone through, waiting and not knowing."

    Execution postponed for second time

    Hussain was initially due to be hanged on January 19, but under international pressure, Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar called for a stay order.
    Addressing parliament, the minister called for an investigation into the young man's age.
    Two months later, another death warrant was issued for Hussain, with an execution date set for March 19.
    Since then Hussain's lawyers handed in a plea of clemency to the president's office with documentation that the inmate was a minor at the time of his arrest.
    Attention to his case comes in the wake of an announcement by Pakistan that it would lift its moratorium on the death penalty for all cases -- not just for those tried in anti-terrorism courts.

    Death penalty reinstated

    Pakistan lifted the death penalty moratorium for terrorism cases following the attack on an Army Public School in Peshawar, which left at least 145 teachers and students dead. It was the deadliest act of terror in the country's history.
    The decision to lift the moratorium on all cases affects more than 8,000 prisoners currently on death row, the largest number in the world.
    The lifting of the moratorium has caused an uproar of criticism by human rights groups in Pakistan and abroad.
    "It's like responding to a blood bath by indulging in blood lust themselves," Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan told CNN. "Executions on this scale tend to brutalize society."
    Earlier this week the European Union released a statement on its website calling Pakistan to "reinstitute the moratorium and to respect fully all its international obligations, in particular the principle of fair trial."
    The statement also said that Pakistan is a party to an international covenant "that specifically prohibits the use of the death sentence for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age."​