Kashmiri Militant Asks President To Spare His Life
9 November 2006
New Delhi: An Islamist militant sentenced to death for his role in an attack on India's parliament in 2001 has appealed to the country's president for mercy so he can see his young son grow up, activists and officials said on Thursday. The parliament attack, in which five gunmen stormed the legislature on December 13, 2001, nearly sparked an India-Pakistan war after New Delhi blamed the raid on Pakistan- based militants opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir. All the raiders were killed in the firefight as were 10 others, mainly security men. Afzal, a short, bespectacled Kashmiri in his late thirties, said in a petition to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and circulated by the Society for the Protection of Detainees' and Prisoners' Rights, that he did not support the parliament raid in any way. 'I do not think that the attack on the parliament served the cause of the Kashmiri people and I am genuinely sorry for the family members of those who died doing their duty,' he was quoted as saying. An official at New Delhi's high-security Tihar jail where Afzal is lodged said the mercy plea was being studied before being sent to the president. It was drafted with help from the prisoners' rights society. Kashmiri leaders have said the hanging of Afzal would fuel the Muslim separatist revolt against Indian rule in the Himalayan region that has left more than 45,000 people dead since 1989. Afzal was sentenced to death by hanging in September by the Supreme Court, sparking violent protests in his native Kashmir and peaceful opposition from Indian rights activists. In his petition, Afzal said their efforts had 'truly given me a new hope that I may live and be able to see my son grow up.' A separate mercy plea was filed by last month by Afzal's wife who met Kalam, along with his son and Afzal's mother. Afzal was convicted for being part of the conspiracy and helping organise arms for the raiders and a place for them to stay. He claimed he was not involved in the conspiracy to attack parliament and was tortured by police into making false confessions. 'I cannot reproduce the abuses they (police investigators) heaped upon me and the others they arrested,' Afzal said in the petition.