ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani man charged as a child with murder was dressed in a white uniform, ready for hanging, and told to write his will before the execution was postponed, his family said on Thursday.
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, a case that has angered rights groups and prompted mercy appeals from his family.
Hussain’s hanging was postponed indefinitely, his brother, Gul Zaman, told Reuters. The Dawn newspaper said it had been postponed for three days.
“We were awake all night and praying to God,” Hussain’s mother, Makhani Begum, told Reuters on Thursday. “There was no hope that we would ever see him alive again, but thanks to Allah, who saved my little child from this brutal punishment.”
The human rights group Reprieve said an inquiry would be conducted into Hussain’s age at the time of conviction and the torture he suffered before “confessing” to the crime, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Zaman said he was with his brother when he was prepared for execution.
“They dressed him up in white uniform for the execution,” he said. “Then they asked him to write his last will. He wrote: ‘I am innocent. They want to hang me for a crime I have not committed, to save others who have been freed’.”
Pakistan on Wednesday hanged nine people, taking to 21 the number of executions in two days, for a tally of 48 since an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in December. Twelve were executed on Tuesday.
The death sentence cannot be used against a defendant under 18 at the time of the crime. Testimony obtained by torture is also inadmissible.
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.
Hussain’s family made heartrending appeals to the government on Wednesday, complaining of a flawed justice system that allowed months of torture to extract a confession.
Human rights groups say convictions in Pakistan are highly unreliable because its antiquated criminal justice system barely functions, torture is common and the police are mostly untrained.
Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel