Demand to commute Afzal's sentence

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DHARNA AGAINST EXECUTION: Arundhati Roy (left) and S.A.R. Geelani (centre) at a sit-in protest in New Delhi on Wednesday.
DHARNA AGAINST EXECUTION: Arundhati Roy (left) and S.A.R. Geelani (centre) at a sit-in protest in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Staff Reporter

Arundhati Roy says Parliament attack case is full of fabricated stories and evidence

  • Execution will widen the rift between communities: Medha
  • No direct evidence to link him to the incident: Yasin Malik

    NEW DELHI: Prominent political leaders, social activists, writers and academicians on Wednesday staged a sit-in demonstration at Jantar Mantar, demanding that Mohammad Afzal's death sentence in the Parliament attack case be commuted to life imprisonment.

    The dharna was organised under the aegis of the Society for the Protection of Detainees' and Prisoners' Rights.

    Some speakers demanded that the case be investigated again as they claimed that the investigation had not been "not transparent," raising several doubts.

    Booker Prize winner and social activist Arundhati Roy said she was stoutly against capital punishment, and supported the appeal for reduction of Afzal's sentence.

    "The Parliament attack case is full of fabricated stories and evidence, and to hang someone who would not have been guilty would not be justice. Secondly, Afzal was not properly represented during the trial," said Ms. Roy, demanding a parliamentary inquiry into the matter.

    Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said death sentence to Afzal was a reflection of "terrorism by the establishment.''

    "It is very clear to several of us whether orders are passed keeping in view the conscience of the people or in favour of the establishment. Those who killed hundreds in Gujarat are roaming free and innocents are punished," she said.

    Afzal's execution would widen the rift between communities. "The so-called secular Government at the Centre should consider the clemency appeal,'' she said.

    "Needs overhaul"

    The minorities should be made to feel secure and opinion of the Kashmir people should be respected. Had Ms. Roy and others not stood up in support of Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani, he too would have been wrongly convicted in the Parliament attack case, she said.

    "The entire judicial system needs overhauling. Even if a thousand culprits escape, not a single innocent person should be victimised," she said.

    "No direct proof"

    Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik said he had met CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat and Communist Party of India general secretary A.B. Bardhan and urged them to support the campaign for commutation of Afzal's death sentence.

    "There is no direct evidence to link him to the incident. He has been sentenced to death only on the basis of circumstantial evidence. More so, those who had attacked Parliament had been killed and two main accused Masood Azhar and Ghazi Baba are out of the country. As in the case of Abu Salem, even they would not have been awarded capital punishment had they been extradited. So why is Afzal being condemned to death?" he asked.

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