PAKISTAN: CONVICT SET FREE AFTER SPENDING 21 YEARS ON DEATH ROW
July 1, 2020:
Muhammad Iqbal, who spent the last 21 years on death row for a crime he was convicted of committing when he was a juvenile, has been released, according to the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). (Sources: Dawn, 01/07/2020)
The JPP is a non-profit, human rights law firm that provides pro-bono legal advice, representation and investigative services to the most vulnerable prisoners facing the harshest punishments.
Iqbal was only 17 years old in 1998 when he was arrested and consequently sentenced to death a year later, the advocacy group said in a statement issued on his release.
In 2000, Pakistan passed the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), making it illegal for juveniles to be handed the death sentence.
A presidential notification of 2001 subsequently provided remission to all juveniles sentenced prior to the ordinance. However, Iqbal continued to languish on death row despite his proven juvenility, the JPP said.
A letter, it added, was written by the Punjab government to the Lahore High Court in 2003, listing Iqbal as one of the prisoners entitled to remission.
Several human rights groups and United Nations special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Pakistani government in March seeking leniency, asking that Iqbal’s death sentence be commuted. The letter stated that he was charged with murder and robbery when he was just 17.
His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on 8 June 2020 by the Lahore High Court and Iqbal was released from jail on 30 June, after it was established that he has already served a life term.