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Afzal may not be hanged on Oct 20
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October 18, 2006 20:36 IST

Mohammed Afzal Guru, sentenced to death for his role in the 2001 attack on Parliament, is unlikely to be hanged on Friday as scheduled as President A P J Abdul Kalam is yet to decide on a mercy petition filed by the condemned man's family.

After receiving the petition from the Rashtrapati Bhawan earlier this month, the home ministry initiated legal consultations on the plea so that it could give its opinion to the President.

According to legal provisions, a convict facing death sentence cannot be hanged till his or her clemency plea is rejected. With no decision so far on the clemency plea, authorities in Tihar Jail, where Guru is being held, have put on hold arrangements for hanging him.

"We have been informed that Afzal's clemency petition is under consideration. We have not received any information to the contrary so far and so arrangements for the execution have been put on hold," a Tihar jail source told PTI.

Political parties and rights activists are divided over the execution of 32-year-old Guru and recent weeks have witnessed an intense debate on whether capital punishment serves any purpose. Those who favour Guru's execution say it will send out a signal that the country is not 'soft' in dealing with terrorists and that no lenience should be shown to those involved in the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.

Among those opposed to the execution is Jammu and Kashmir [Images] Chief Minister Ghulam [Images] Nabi Azad, who has requested the Central government to commute the former Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front member's death sentence.

The Kashmir Valley has already witnessed widespread protests and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah has said that Guru's execution could spark more unrest in the state. Those pleading for clemency say Guru was not given a fair trial. They say he was sentenced on the basis of circumstantial evidence and was not directly involved in the attack on Parliament.

Demanding clemency for Guru, JKLF chief Yasin Malik, People's Conference leader Sajjad Lone, noted Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande, social activist Medha Patkar and writer Arundhati Roy joined hands to organise a protest in the capital against the death sentence given to him.

Meanwhile, the Union law ministry has said the matter has not been referred to it by the home ministry and the question of it giving advice, as suggested by some reports, on the issue did not arise. "It is clarified that the Union law ministry has given no such advice to the ministry of home affairs," an official statement said on Wednesday.

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