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Sarabjit Singh appeals to Zardari for mercy

Reuters
Jul 06, 2009 at 06:09pm IST

Lahore: Sarabjit Singh, an Indian man condemned to death in Pakistan for spying, has appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari to spare his life, his lawyer said on Monday, after the Supreme Court dismissed his petition to review the sentence.

The appeal for mercy in a case being closely watched in India comes as relations between nuclear-armed foes India and Pakistan, strained by a militant attack in Mumbai in November, inch towards improvement.

Singh, was sentenced to death in 1991 for spying and bombing that killed 14 people. His family said he was innocent and had crossed the border into Pakistan accidently in 1990 while he was drunk.

MERCY PLEA: Sarabjit's family members appeal for his release during a demonstration in Amritsar.

Pakistani officials said Singh was arrested while trying to slip back into India after the bomb blasts.

The government suspended his death sentence in May last year after his family visited Pakistan and appealed for a pardon. But a three-member bench upheld the sentence last month, saying they had no reason to reconsider the original sentence.

Singh's lawyer, Awais Ahmad Sheikh, met the Indian man in his prison cell in Lahore city and later told reporters Singh had sought mercy from Zardari.

"I appeal to you in the name of God and the humanity to pardon my death sentence," the lawyer said, quoting from the letter which he showed to reporters.

Sheikh said he was going to file the mercy appeal with the president on Wednesday.

Singh also sent a message to India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to press Zardari for his release, Sheikh said.

Zardari met Singh in June for their first talks since November's militant attack on Mumbai, raising hopes in Pakistan that a five-year peace process, which India put on "pause" after the assault that killed 166 people, would soon get back on track.

The Indian prime minister is due to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines of an international conference in Egypt on July 16.

India's Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said last month his government had consistently urged Pakistan to take a sympathetic and humanitarian view.

In a move India is expected to welcome, Pakistan on Monday lodged appeals against a court decision to release an Islamist militant leader accused by India of plotting the Mumbai assault.

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