Pakistan 'teen' convict faces gallows despite protests

Pakistan is preparing Tuesday to hang a convicted killer whose case has attracted international protests because family members say he was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

Shafqat Hussain was sentenced to death for killing a seven-year-old boy in Karachi in 2004 but has had several stays of execution, most recently in June.

The case has prompted grave concern among human rights campaigners as Hussain's lawyers and family claim he was only 15 at the time of the killing, though a government-ordered probe ruled he was an adult.

Hussain's supporters also say he was tortured into confessing.

United Nations rights experts have said his trial "fell short of international standards" and called on Islamabad to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.

Maya Foa of the British anti-death penalty campaign group Reprieve codemned the plan to hang Hussain as an "absolute disgrace".

A six-year halt to executions came to an end in December as Pakistan got tough on extremism after Taliban gunmen massacred more than 130 children at a school. Since then, around 180 people have been hanged.

An official at Karachi Central Prison said Hussain's execution was scheduled for Tuesday following a death warrant issued by a court.

The European Union last week said it was "deeply concerned" by the resumption of hangings and warned that a prized tariff status granted to Pakistan could be threatened unless it stuck to international conventions on fair trials, child rights and preventing torture.

Critics say Pakistan's criminal justice system is marred by police torture and poor legal representation, meaning many of the 8,000 or so death row convicts have not had a fair trial.

In June Hussain won his fourth stay of execution, but a day later the Supreme Court rejected an application to set up a judicial commission to ascertain his age.

Hussain's age has proved difficult to determine with any certainty. His supporters say he was 14 or 15 at the time of the killing but police insist he was over 20.

Exact birth records are not always kept in Pakistan, particularly for people from poor families like Hussain's.

 

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