New Delhi: Arguments for releasing death row prisoner in Pakistan Sarabjit Singh swings in his favour as a key witness Shaukat Salim is caught on tape retracting his statement.
Singh was sentenced to death for his involvement in four bomb blasts in Lahore and Multan that killed 14 people. Sarabjit has already spent 18 years of his life in a death cell.
Salim, whose father and other relatives were killed in the attack, now says Sarabjit was the one who planted the bomb. Earlier Salim had said that he made the statements implicating Sarabjit under pressure from the Pakistani police.
Shaukat had earlier said, “I have not seen anything nor do I believe it. When the Pakistan government catches someone they get after the police as well. The government lawyer told me to say that I have seen Sarabjit commit the crime and that I should testify against him."
Meanwhile, Sarabjit's lawyer Abdul Rana Hamid told CNN-IBN that Salim's statements have no value as they were never recorded in court.
“Salim’s statements cannot be considered as they were not made in court. Sarabjit’s mercy petition is pending before the Pakistan President. It is being considered sympathetically and the Pakistan government does have a policy of reducing death sentence to life imprisonment," Hamid said.
Two mercy petitions have been filed for Sarabjit Singh including, one by his sister Dalbir Kaur, a senior government official said on Monday. The petitions filed with President Pervez Musharraf were by Dalbir and Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney, an interior ministry official said. Both petitions have been received by the presidency.
The official said this was at least the third letter by his sister to the President, while Burney has also sent his appeal to Musharraf.
Last month, the Indian government had filed a clemency appeal for Singh on humanitarian grounds.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected Sarabjit’s mercy petition in March 2006 and upheld his death sentence. The Pakistan President, who is the final authority on the matter, has not given any decision on the petition.
Making his case, Burney said that none of the four FIRs lodged in regard to the bombings contained Sarabjit’s name or his description. When he was arrested on the night of Aug 30, 1990, at Kasur Border, he had actually been apprehended for illegally crossing the India-Pakistani border. After eight days, the police implicated him in the terrorist bombings. He had not been arrested red handed, he maintained.
Burney also pointed out that one magistrate had recorded the statements of the witnesses in all the four cases – one in Faislabad and three in Lahore – even though the cases were lodged in four different police stations and two different districts. He said four different magistrates should have recorded the statements. Not one of the statements recorded in front of the magistrate was taken under oath.
Sarabjit had not been produced in an identity parade in front of a magistrate. Instead, he was brought in front of witnesses, without a magistrate present, and the police informed the witnesses that he was the culprit – just as Shaukat Salim, a key witness in the case had said.
(With agency inputs)