Pakistan executes man who was 15 at time of arrest

PAKISTAN has executed a man who was "a child" at the time of his arrest, despite international appeals for clemency.

Ansar Iqbal maintained his innocence after being arrested for allegedly murdering his neighbour in 1994 but was sentenced to death two years later.

After more than 20 years on death row, he was hanged in the early hours of Tuesday morning at a prison in Sargodha, Punjab.

Human rights group Reprieve, which campaigned against his execution, said Iqbal was "almost certainly a juvenile" when he was imprisoned, making his death a violation of Pakistani law.

The convict said he was 15 at the time and documents supporting his claim were presented in court, but judges acted on police officers' estimates that Iqbal was aged in his 20s.

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: "The Pakistani authorities have today executed a man who all the evidence suggested was a child at the time of the alleged offence.

"The government has therefore committed a shocking breach of Pakistani and international law - and it is shameful that, when Iqbal's life was at stake, the Supreme Court of Pakistan refused to consider critical evidence of juvenility."

In the absence of an original birth certificate, which Reprieve said is common in Pakistan, Iqbal's representative gave the court school and family records, which were dismissed.

By the time of the prisoner's appeal to the Supreme Court earlier this year, he had obtained a new birth certificate issued by Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority giving his date of birth as 25 December 1978.

It appeared to confirm Iqbal's claims over his age but his lawyers said judges "refused to consider" the document.

His hanging was the fourth time an alleged juvenile offender has been executed by Pakistan in little over 10 months.

At least 239 prisoners have died since authorities lifted a 2008 moratorium on carrying out death sentences in the wake of the Taliban's massacre at a school in Peshawar in December.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif initially said capital punishment was only being reinstated for convicted terrorists, but it has since been widened to all offences.

With around 8,000 people on death row, Pakistan is believed to have the highest number of prisoners awaiting execution in the world.

Blasphemy, adultery, high treason and sabotage of the railway system are among 27 crimes that carry the death penalty.

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