A Pakistani man has been executed for murder after nearly 20 years on death row, despite claims he was just 15 year old at the time of the killing, Sky News reports.
Ansar Iqbal – who always insisted he did not commit the crime – was hanged at a prison in Sargodha in the eastern Punjab province at dawn Tuesday.
His death came a day after international human rights group Reprieve appealed to the authorities to spare Iqbal because he was a juvenile at the time of his arrest in 1994.
Pakistani law does not allow the execution of someone who is underage at the time of their arrest.
“All the documentary evidence provided to the courts during his trial or appeal indicates that he was a child at the time of the alleged offence; however, the courts have chosen to believe the estimate of police officers that he was in his 20s,” Reprieve said in a statement.
The court refused to look at the man’s school records and birth certificate, which give his age at 14 and 15 respectively, saying the documents were submitted too late.
Iqbal and a friend were arrested for the murder of a neighbor – the victim’s family said Iqbal committed the crime over an argument at a cricket match but Iqbal said police had framed him by planting two guns at his home.
He was sentenced to death in 1996.
Pakistan has executed 239 people since it lifted a 2008 moratorium on the death penalty following last December’s Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in which 150, most children, were killed.
However, human rights groups say most of those killed were “routine” criminals rather than terrorists.
The country’s criminal justice system is widely criticised, with police being accused of demanding bribes and gaining confessions through torture.
Defense lawyers are sometimes unskilled, either failing to examine witnesses properly or not appearing in court for hearings.
According to Reprieve, 73% of Pakistanis are not registered at birth which means it is “almost impossible to prove the age of most of the 8,000 prisoners on Pakistan’s death row.”
Last week, the execution of a paraplegic man convicted of killing someone over a financial dispute was postponed.
Abdul Basit, 43, has been on death row since 2009 and became paralysed from the waist down after contracting meningitis in prison in 2010.