John McDonnell MP(Chair)
Adnan Siddiqui (Cageprisoners),
Amrit Wilson (South Asia Solidarity Group)
Fahad Ansari (Islamic Human Rights Commission)
Wednesday 27 June 7.00pm
House of Commons
Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Parliamentary Offices
Bridge Street, London SW1A 2LW(tube: Westminster)
Afzal Guru is a Kashmiri currently detained in India’s notorious Tihar jail and facing a death sentence. He is accused of involvement in the attack on the Indian Parliament five years ago. He faces hanging 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
• Afzal Guru was denied an opportunity to defend himself – he did not even have a lawyer
• He was convicted and sentenced under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was repealed by the Indian Government in September 2004 on the grounds that it had been misused and falls considerably short of fair trial standards.
Afzal was due to be hanged on October 20, 2006, however, a stay on his execution was obtained through a mercy petition to the Indian President. He is still waiting to hear whether the President will exercise his constitutional powers and grant him a reprieve.
Afzal Guru was involved with the JKLF for only three months in 1990 when large numbers of Kashmiri youth were attracted to the movement. During these three months he neither received any training nor took part in any activities. After he surrendered he was constantly picked up by security forces, asked to spy on people and also routinely tortured. He eventually decided to move to Delhi hoping to be left alone but even here the notorious Special Task Force caught up with him and continued to harass him.
The attack on the Indian parliament
The Indian parliament was attacked by five men on December 13 2001. They were killed by the security forces, but even today their identity remains a mystery. Three other men, who according to the police masterminded the attack, have also not been found. However, on 14 and 15 December 2001, the investigating agencies together with the Special Cell of the Delhi Police picked up four persons, all Kashmiris, and charged them with the offence of conspiring to attack the parliament under India’s notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).
After a nationwide campaign for a fair trial, two of them, Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani and Navjot Sandhu, who was jailed along with her newborn baby, have been acquitted of all charges, a third, the husband of Navjot Sandhu, has had his death sentence converted to ten years in prison.
But the fourth, Afzal Guru, who did not even have a lawyer was sentenced to death. The Indian Supreme Court ruled that although he was not involved in the actual attack on the Indian parliament, did not kill or injure anybody and although there was no direct evidence against him, only circumstantial. “the collective conscience of the society will be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender… The appellant, who is a surrendered militant … is a menace to society and should become extinct.”
Abu Ghraib Style Torture: In the Special Cell of the Delhi police Afzal was kept naked for two days and beaten mercilessly – once by a man who later appeared as a prosecution witness; police officers urinated in his mouth saying ‘This is the way you can break your Roza(fast)’.
Trial by Media: After he was tortured he was handcuffed and made to sit on a chair and forced to ‘confess’ at a media conference. But television broadcasts did not show the handcuffs and did not show the men who tortured and humiliated him. On the 15 and 16 of December 2006, New Delhi Television (NDTV) re-ran the ‘confession’ several times although they had been informed that by now that the Supreme Court of India had rejected it and the High Court had reprimanded the police for it. The programme then invited viewers to act as a virtual lynch mob by soliciting SMS messages from them asking whether Afzal should be hanged in light of the tape telecast by them. Right-wing Hindu chauvinist forces of the Sangh Parivar have continually harassed members of the India-wide campaign to save Afzal Guru while calling for Afzal to be hanged.
Afzal is being held in the notorious Tihar prison in Delhi. He is being denied basic rights in prison – he is not allowed to go out of doors for even half an hour of sunlight and the Red Cross who have access to Kashmiri prisoners have not been allowed to visit him.
29 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (1330) tabled by John McDonnell M.P. asking the Indian President to intervene urgently:
That this House notes with concern that Afzal Guru, convicted of attacking the Indian parliament in December 2001, is facing the death penalty in India; notes that there are concerns and questions being raised by campaigning organisations regarding Afzal\’s trial and therefore the legitimacy of the verdict; further notes that there are claims that Afzal Guru was tortured by the police and security forces; believes that the death penalty is inhumane; and asks the President of India to intervene urgently to use his prerogative of mercy to revoke the death sentence and call an inquiry into
A campaign across India and in the UK has urged the Indian President to intervene and exercise his constitutional powers to grant Afzal a reprieve.
Further details from www.saveafzalguru.org or 07814 983105