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Execution of paraplegic Pakistani stayed by Punjab authorities

WASHINGTON - The hanging of a paralyzed Pakistani man, which had been expected to take place before dawn today (local time) has not gone ahead, after a magistrate issued a last-minute stay of execution.

Abdul Basit, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since contracting meningitis in jail and receiving inadequate treatment, was due to be hanged by around 05:30 local time / 00:30 GMT today (Tuesday 22 September).

Basit’s lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan had raised concerns that, because Pakistan’s Prison Rules do not provide for the hanging of people unable to stand, his execution could have been botched, resulting in prolonged suffering. It would therefore have violated both the prison rules and the country’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court handed down an order yesterday which stated that the hanging must comply with the prison rules – something described by human rights organization Reprieve as an “impossible task,” given the absence of any provision for hanging someone who requires a wheelchair. Around an hour before the hanging was due to take place, the judicial magistrate responsible for supervising it issued a stay, on the basis that prison officials believed the execution could not be carried out without violating the rules.

A further decision on how to proceed in Basit's case now rests with the provincial government of Punjab.

Commenting, Kate Higham, Pakistan caseworker at Reprieve, said: “It is welcome that the Punjab government has apparently seen sense and stopped this hanging from going ahead. There was a real risk that Basit could have faced horrific, prolonged torment – violating both the prison’s own rules and Pakistan’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Punjab government is to be congratulated on their humane and just decision to stay Basit’s execution.”

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve's press office: + 44 (0) 207 553 8140

2. Pakistan’s execution protocols can be found in its jail manual, here, while a recent report by the Pakistani medical board into Abdul Basit’s condition can be found here.

3. Further details on Abdul Basit’s case can be found in a petition for mercy submitted by his lawyers to the President of Pakistan, here.

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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