Terrorist hanged as mercy plea rejected

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A KASHMIRI man convicted of a 2001 attack on India’s parliament that left 14 people dead was hanged yesterday after a final mercy plea was rejected.

India’s Home Secretary R K Singh said Mohammed Afzal Guru was executed early yesterday morning at New Delhi’s Tihar prison. “It was the law taking its course,” Singh said.

Guru was given a Muslim burial in the prison compound. His family in Jammu-Kashmir state has demanded his body be returned to them, but that seems unlikely.

Guru had been on death row since his conviction in 2002. Appeals to higher courts were rejected, and India’s Supreme Court set an execution date for October 2006. But this was ­delayed after his wife filed a mercy petition with India’s president. That petition, the last step in the ­judicial process, was turned down earlier this week.

Rights groups across ­India and political groups in Indian Kashmir have said Guru did not get a fair trial.

“Serious questions have been raised about the fairness of Afzal Guru’s trial,” Amnesty International India’s programmes director Shashikumar Velath said. “He did not receive legal representation of his choice or a lawyer with adequate experience at the trial stage.”

Protests broke out yesterday in at least four parts of Indian Kashmir, including the north-western town of Sopore, which was Guru’s home. Scores of protesters chanting slogans including “We want freedom” and “Down with India” defied a curfew and clashed with police and paramilitary troops, who opened fire. Four protesters sustained bullet wounds and one was in a critical condition, a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity.