March 18, 2015 / 5:48 AM / 5 years ago

Pakistan death row convict's family makes emotional plea for mercy

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) - The family of a Pakistani man charged as a child with murder and due to be hanged made heartrending appeals to the government on Wednesday, complaining of a flawed justice system that allowed months of torture to extract a confession.

A note is pictured on the ground at the entrance of the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen, in Peshawar December 22, 2014. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz/Files

Lawyers for Shafqat Hussain say he was just 14 in 2004, when he was burnt with cigarettes and had fingernails removed until he confessed to the killing of a child. He is set to be hanged on Thursday.

Pakistan on Wednesday hanged nine people, taking to 21 the number of executions in the past two days, for a tally of 48 since an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in December. Twelve were executed on Tuesday.

“For God’s sake don’t deprive me of Shafqat, he is my last child. He is innocent,” his mother, Makhani Begum told a news conference in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, where Hussain comes from.

“Oh, my Allah, save my Shafqat from falling victim to injustice,” she wailed, raising her hands in prayer.

Hussain’s brother, Manzoor, 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.

The death sentence cannot be used against a defendant under the age of 18 when the crime was committed. Testimony obtained by torture is also inadmissible.

“He was burnt by cigarettes, subjected to electric shocks,” Manzoor told Reuters. “Police kept a 14-year-old boy in custody for four months and 14 days (before extracting a statement).

“... And we are going through this ordeal because we are poor. If Shafqat had a name like Sharif or Zardari, he would be roaming freely.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on Dec. 17, a day after Pakistani Taliban gunmen attacked a school and killed 134 pupils and 19 adults.

Fatima Bhutto, the niece of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has taken up Shafqat Hussain’s cause.

“There was no moment of reflection, no introspection, only a knee-jerk call for vengeance,” Fatima Bhutto said in the New York Times of the lifting of the moratorium. “In Pakistan, blood will always have blood.”

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had promised an investigation into Shafqat Hussain’s age, but his lawyers say neither they nor the family were contacted.

“We are going to the Ministry of Interior again today,” Shahab Siddiqui, from Justice Project Pakistan, the legal aid group representing Shafqat Hussain, told Reuters.

“We are bringing evidence and want to ask what else they need.”

Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan and Nick Macfie in Islamabad

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