Man set free after spending 21 years on death row in Pakistan

Sajjad Hussain

Islamabad, Jul 1 (PTI) A Pakistani man, who spent 21 years on death row for a criminal offense he was convicted of committing when he was a juvenile, has been released, a non-profit human rights group said on Wednesday.

Muhammad Iqbal was 17 years old in 1998 when he was arrested and consequently sentenced to death a year later, according to the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP).

But Pakistan passed the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) in 2000, making death sentence illegal for juvenile offenders.

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 said, was written by the Punjab government to the Lahore High Court in 2003, listing Iqbal as one of the prisoners entitled to remission.

'Two decades later, the Lahore High Court had finally acknowledged that Iqbal was wronged and did not deserve to be on death row,” the JPP said.

His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in February 2020 and Iqbal was released from jail on June 30, 2020, after it was established that he has already served a life term.

The advocacy group did not specify the crime committed by Iqbal.

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. PTI SH ZH ZH