Alert: Save Kashmiri Afzal Guru from Death Penalty in India

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Kashmiri born Mohammed Afzal Guru was accused of conspiring to attack the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 with three other Kashmiris.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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Alert: Save Kashmiri Afzal Guru from Death Penalty in India

8 February 2007

Kashmiri born Mohammed Afzal Guru was accused of conspiring to attack the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 with three other Kashmiris. In a clear miscarriage of justice, in which he was tortured until he “confessed”, he alone was convicted and sentenced to face the death penalty.

1. Background

On 13 December 2001, five unknown men attacked the Indian Parliament, but were killed by the security forces. Three other men who were also involved and had allegedly masterminded the attack remained unfound. On 14 and 15 December 2001, investigating agencies together with the Special Cell (anti-terror unit) of the Delhi Police captured four people, all Kashmiris, in relation to the attack under India's notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

Two of them were subsequently acquitted after a nationwide campaign for a fair trial. A third had his death sentence converted to a ten year jail sentence. The fourth man, Mohammad Afzal Guru was sentenced to death by the trial court on 18 December 2002 and this sentence was upheld through appeals in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. Mr. Guru has appealed to the President of India for clemency and is currently awaiting a decision. He was due to be hanged on 20 October 2006; however a stay has been obtained on his death sentence by the Save Afzal Campaign through a Mercy Petition. He is currently detained at Tihar jail in Delhi.

In 1989, Afzal Guru, then 20, was amongst many Kashmiri youths who were attracted by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and went to be trained as a militant. However, he stayed affiliated with them for only three months and did not take part in any training or any other activities. Thereafter, he enrolled himself in Delhi University. In 1993, without ever having been a practising militant, he voluntarily surrendered to the Border Security Force. Illogically enough, it was at this point that his nightmares began. His surrender was treated as a crime and his life became hell. From that day onwards, he was constantly harassed by the security forces. Many times he was told to spy on suspected militants. He was severely tortured on more than one occasion in order to extract information from him. The State Task Force (STF) once captured him and demanded 100, 000 Indian Rupees from him. His family had to sell everything to save him. But they still did not let go. He was kept in freezing water and petrol was poured in his anus. Electric shocks were given to his genitals. As a result Afzal was forced to leave his homeland for Delhi. He struggled hard to earn a living there. But the STF got to him again.

Unfair Trial and Tortured Confession

It is clear that the trial process was flawed and highly unfair. Afzal did not have a lawyer from the time he was arrested and right through the crucial phase of the trial when the real work of building up a case is done. The lawyer finally appointed for him in lower court expressed outright hatred against him and the judge was not ready to listen to Afzal's arguments. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police, which was placed in charge of investigating the case, severely tortured Afzal. He was kept naked for two days in the Special Cell and beaten mercilessly, once allegedly by the man who later appeared as the prosecution witness. Police officers urinated in his mouth saying “This is the way you can break your Roza (fast)”. The Special Cell used the media to brand Afzal as guilty even before the trial. He was produced before the media and forced to “confess”. Subsequent statements by a media representative present at the event that Afzal appeared to be in a highly disturbed frame of mind were ignored by the courts. The media trial, which included a film broadcast on Zee TV, previewed and approved by the then Prime Minister, was clearly a factor in prejudicing the outcome of the trial.

In the High Court, a human rights lawyer offered to represent him but instead of trying to prove him innocent, he pleaded for Afzal to be given a lethal injection instead of being hanged. Afzal had no way of changing his lawyer as he was locked up in high security jail. The Delhi High Court acknowledged that the investigating agency fabricated evidence against the accused, yet upheld the verdict. On 5 August 2005, the Supreme Court rejected Afzal's confession on account of the procedural irregularities in obtaining it, and admitted that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation. Nevertheless, it upheld the death sentence based on nothing more than inadequate circumstantial evidence. According to the Supreme Court

“the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender... The appellant, who is a surrendered militant … is a menace to society and his life should become extinct.”

On 15 and 16 December 2006, New Delhi Television (NDTV) re-ran his 'confession' on their channel several times even though it had been rejected by the Supreme Court and the High Court had reproved the police for it. People running Afzal's campaign have been constantly harassed by right wing campaigners who want Afzal hanged.

Afzal Guru faces a death penalty although:

• There is no direct evidence against him and he is known not to have injured or harmed anyone
• The Courts have found that the investigating agencies deliberately fabricated evidence and forged documents against him and others accused.
• Currently Afzal is waiting for the results of a Mercy Petition but the decision of the courts is extremely uncertain. Even after enormous efforts by his campaign he is being denied basic rights in prison – he is not allowed to go out of doors for even 5 minutes a day and the Red Cross who have access to Kashmiri prisoners have not been allowed to visit him.

Afzal's trial does not meet international standards for a fair trial: he was denied due process, legal counsel and the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. These violate articles 7, 10, 14, and 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. India signed and ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in 1979.

Afzal's plight is typical of that of thousands of Kashmiris whose cries go unheard every day. The campaign to free him is supported by many mainstream Indian writers, academics and lawyers including Anand Patwardhan, Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, Sister Helen Prejean, Harsh Mandar, S. A. R. Geelani, Sandeep Pandey, Justice Suresh, Gautam Navlakha, Ved Bhasin, Ziauddin Sardar Praful Bidwai, Ram Puniyani, Dionne Bunsha, Jyoti Punwani, Asgar Ali Engineer, Ammu Abraham.

For further information, please visit http://justiceforafzalguru.org/


2. Action Required

a. Write to the Indian president and appeal to him to rescind Afzal's death sentence and ensure that he is immediately released.

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhawan,
New Delhi
INDIA

Fax: +91 11 2301 7290
Email: presidentofindia@rb.nic.in

Sign the petition against Mr. Guru's death penalty, addressed for the President of India, which is available online at http://www.petitiononline.com/ekta1/petition.html

b. Write to the Chairperson of Indian National Human Rights Commission and appeal to him to work diligently for Afzal's immediate release.

Dr. Justice Shivaraj V. Patil,
Chairperson,
National Human Rights Commission,
Faridkot House,
Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001

Fax: +91 11 2338 4863
Email: covdnhrc@nic.in, ionhrc@nic.in

c. Write to the Head of Mission of the Indian High Commission and appeal to him to work for the withdrawal of Afzal's death sentence and immediate release.

HE Mr. Kamalesh Sharma
India House
Aldwych
London
WC2B 4NA

Fax: +44 207 836 4331

d. Write to the European Commissioner for Human Rights and appeal to him to urge the Indian authorities to withdraw Afzal's death sentence and release him immediately.

Mr. Thomas Hammarberg
Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex

Fax: +33 3 90 21 50 53
Email: commissioner@coe.int

e. Write to the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to make representations to her Indian counterparts to work for Afzal's immediate release.

Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Fax: +44 0207 839 2417
Email: private.office@fco.gov.uk

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Sample letters are given below for your convenience

Sample Letter to Indian President

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhawan,
New Delhi
INDIA

Dear Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam,

Re: Appeal for the immediate release of Afzal Guru

I am writing to you to request your immediate attention to the case of Mohammad Afzal Guru who faces a serious violation of human rights in India. I request you to exercise your constitutional powers to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice in his case.

He was arrested in relation to the attack on the Indian Parliament and was sentenced to death on 18 December 2002. He was due to be hanged on 20 October 2006 but a stay has been obtained on his death sentence by the Save Afzal Campaign. He has appealed to you for clemency and is currently awaiting your decision.

His trial has been flawed right from the beginning. The following points regarding his case highlight the injustices he has faced:

• There is no direct evidence against him.
• He was not provided a lawyer at the crucial beginning phase of the trial.
• The lawyer appointed for him in lower court expressed outright hatred against him and the judge was not ready to listen to his arguments.
• He was severely tortured by the Special Cell of the Delhi police and was forced to “confess” in front of the national media thereby prejudicing the outcome of the trial.
• Subsequent statements made by a media representative present at the event that Afzal appeared to be in a highly disturbed frame of mind were ignored by the courts.
• The Delhi High Court acknowledged that the investigating agency fabricated evidence against the accused, yet upheld the verdict.
• The Supreme Court rejected Afzal's confession on account of the procedural irregularities in obtaining it, and admitted that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation.
• Afzal's trial does not meet international standards for a fair trial: he was denied due process, legal counsel and the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. These violate articles 7, 10, 14, and 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. India signed and ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in 1979.

Therefore, in light of the above mentioned points, I urge you to ensure that a fresh enquiry is launched into the parliament attack.

Further, I urge you to grant clemency to Afzal Guru who is clearly innocent and has suffered much injustice through the course of this trial. A death penalty is irreversible, hence I urge you to exercise extreme caution in Afzal's case and prevent a grave miscarriage of justice.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter,


Yours Sincerely,


[Your Signature]

[Your Name]

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Sample Letter to Indian National Human Rights Commission and Indian High Commission London

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

[Recipient's Address]


Dear [Recipient's Name],

Re: Appeal for the immediate release of Afzal Guru

I am writing to you to request your immediate attention to the case of Mohammad Afzal Guru who faces a serious violation of human rights in India. I request you to exercise your constitutional powers to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice in his case.

He was arrested in relation to the attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 and was sentenced to death on 18 December 2002. Afzal has appealed to the President of India for clemency and is currently awaiting a decision. He was due to be hanged on 20 October 2006 but a stay has been obtained on his death sentence by the Save Afzal Campaign through a Mercy Petition. He is currently detained at Tihar prison in Delhi.

His trial has been flawed right from the beginning. The following points regarding his case highlight the injustices he has faced:

• There is no direct evidence against him.
• He was not provided a lawyer at the crucial beginning phase of the trial.
• The lawyer appointed for him in lower court expressed outright hatred against him and the judge was not ready to listen to his arguments.
• He was severely tortured by the Special Cell of the Delhi police and was forced to “confess” in front of the national media thereby prejudicing the outcome of the trial.
• Subsequent statements made by a media representative present at the event that Afzal appeared to be in a highly disturbed frame of mind were ignored by the courts.
• The Delhi High Court acknowledged that the investigating agency fabricated evidence against the accused, yet upheld the verdict.
• The Supreme Court rejected Afzal's confession on account of the procedural irregularities in obtaining it, and admitted that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation.
• Afzal's trial does not meet international standards for a fair trial: he was denied due process, legal counsel and the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. These violate articles 7, 10, 14, and 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. India signed and ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in 1979.

Therefore, in light of the above mentioned points, I urge you to press for a fresh enquiry to be launched into the parliament attack.

Further, I urge you to work for the withdrawal of Afzal's death sentence and for his immediate release, as he is clearly innocent and has already suffered much injustice through the course of this trial.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter,


Yours Sincerely,


[Your Signature]

[Your Name]

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sample Letter to European Commissioner of Human Rights and Margaret Beckett FCO

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

[Recipient's Address]


Dear [Recipient's Name],

Re: Appeal for the immediate release of Afzal Guru

I am writing to you to request your immediate attention to the case of Mohammad Afzal Guru who faces a serious violation of human rights in India. I request you to exercise your constitutional powers to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice in his case.

He was arrested in relation to the attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 and was sentenced to death on 18 December 2002. Afzal has appealed to the President of India for clemency and is currently awaiting a decision. He was due to be hanged on 20 October 2006 but a stay has been obtained on his death sentence by the Save Afzal Campaign through a Mercy Petition. He is currently detained at Tihar prison in Delhi.

His trial has been flawed right from the beginning. The following points regarding his case highlight the injustices he has faced:

• There is no direct evidence against him.
• He was not provided a lawyer at the crucial beginning phase of the trial.
• The lawyer appointed for him in lower court expressed outright hatred against him and the judge was not ready to listen to his arguments.
• He was severely tortured by the Special Cell of the Delhi police and was forced to “confess” in front of the national media thereby prejudicing the outcome of the trial.
• Subsequent statements made by a media representative present at the event that Afzal appeared to be in a highly disturbed frame of mind were ignored by the courts.
• The Delhi High Court acknowledged that the investigating agency fabricated evidence against the accused, yet upheld the verdict.
• The Supreme Court rejected Afzal's confession on account of the procedural irregularities in obtaining it, and admitted that there was no evidence that he belonged to any terrorist group or organisation.
• Afzal's trial does not meet international standards for a fair trial: he was denied due process, legal counsel and the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. These violate articles 7, 10, 14, and 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. India signed and ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in 1979.

Therefore, in light of the above mentioned points, I urge you to request the Indian authorities for a fresh enquiry to be launched into the parliament attack.

Further, I request you to make representations to your Indian counterparts to work for the withdrawal of Afzal's death sentence and for his immediate release, as he is clearly innocent and has already suffered much injustice through the course of this trial.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter,


Yours Sincerely,


[Your Signature]

[Your Name]

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