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Burney to file fresh appeal for Sarabjit clemency
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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April 18, 2008 19:50 IST

Leading Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney has said he will file a fresh appeal seeking clemency for Indian national Sarabjit Singh, sentenced to death for alleged involvement in the 1990 blasts in Lahore [Images] and Multan, as there were several loopholes in his conviction.

"The matter of Sarabjit Singh has become a suspicious case in view of the evidence that I have gathered," Burney, former human rights minister, said.

"I will now file a fresh appeal with President Pervez Musharraf [Images] giving all this evidence," he added.

Burney met Sarabjit's lawyer Rana Abdul Hamid in Lahore on Friday to discuss the condemned man's case and to review the evidence against him.

The execution of Sarabjit was deferred for 30 days by Musharraf last month so that the new government could review his case. Sarabjit was originally set to be hanged on April 1.

Referring to the evidence gathered by him, Burney pointed out that Sarabjit's name did not figure in any of the four FIRs registered by police in connection with the bomb attacks that killed 14 people in Punjab province.

Pointing out other lapses, he said, "The identification parade in which Sarabjit was identified was conducted in a police station and not before a magistrate. The evidence in all four FIRs was recorded by one magistrate and not by
different magistrates."

"One of the witnesses, a man named Shaukat, has said that he was forced to testify against Sarabjit in court," Burney told PTI.

He said he would raise all these issues in his fresh appeal to be sent to the president.

Noting that India's external affairs ministry and Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani too had sought clemency for Sarabjit, Burney said, "Even if he is guilty, the death sentence should be converted to life imprisonment as Sarabjit has spent 18 years on death row."

Burney also said he would try to meet Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani to take up Sarabjit's case.

Official sources said the Indian government too had taken up Sarabjit's case with the new coalition government led by the PPP shortly after it assumed office last month.

The Indian government is now hopeful that Sarabjit will be shown clemency, they said.

"The Pakistan government is aware that there is cross-party support in India for the plea for clemency for Sarabjit. Though there are no indications as yet from the Pakistan government, we are hopeful that he will be shown clemency," a source told PTI.

Sarabjit, who Pakistan claims is Manjit Singh, was sentenced to death in 1991.

His family denies he is a spy as alleged by Pakistan and insists he accidentally strayed into the Pakistani territory.

His mercy petition was rejected by Musharraf on March 3. Pakistan's Supreme Court too rejected Sarabjit's plea for clemency earlier in March 2006.

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