August 20, 2015 (telegraph)
Wheelchair-bound Abdul Basit, 43, will be hanged despite appeals from human rights groups
A paraplegic man is facing the prospect of being hanged by prison officials in Pakistan from his wheelchair as he is unable to mount the scaffold.
Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted of murder in 2009 but developed tuberculosis one year later, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.
A “Black Warrant” was issued for his execution on July 29 but appeals from Basit’s legal team led to a stay of execution.
They now await a final hearing on August 25 which will decide whether to go ahead with the procedure.
It means that prison officials are grappling with the conundrum of how much rope is required to hang a man who cannot support his own body weight.
Basit’s lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan have issued an urgent mercy appeal to Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, claiming that hanging a wheelchair-bound person is in breach of its own prison regulations.
“Given that the condemned prisoner is unable to use his lower body to support his own weight and unable to stand, it is not possible to accurately measure the length of rope required for his hanging,” they wrote.
“Consequently, no provision can be safely made for the accurate measurement of the rope that would hang him and to proceed with an inaccurately-measured length of rope would place him at risk of an appalling death.”
Extracts from a prison handbook, seen by The Telegraph, stipulate that prisoners must be able to “stand” on the scaffold.
One extract reads: “The drop is the length of the rope from a point on the rope outside the angle of the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold, to the point where the lope is embraced in the noose after allowing for the constriction of the neck that takes place in hanging.
“The condemned prisoner shall mount the scaffold and shall be placed directly under the beam to which the rope is attached, the warders still holding him by the arms.”
As Basit would be unable to “mount” the scaffold or “stand” beneath the noose, and there are no legal provisions in place for hanging disabled people, the execution should be called off, his lawyers said.
Pakistan has carried out a spate of executions after it lifted a moratorium in response to last year’s Peshawar massacre, which saw Taliban soldiers gun down around 130 schoolboys.
Nearly 200 convicts have been hanged since the December 2014 attack, ostensibly in a bid to crack down on terrorism – though critics note that many of those executed are not convicted of terror-related offences.
Maya Foa, the head of legal charity Reprieve’s death penalty team, warned Basit’s hanging would be a “cruel and violent spectacle”.
“The decision to go ahead with the hanging of a severely disabled man would mark a new low for the Pakistani justice system,” she said.
“Abdul Basit contracted tubercular meningitis while imprisoned; authorities failed to provide proper medical assistance and as a result, his illness worsened, leaving him entirely paralysed from the waist down.
“Abdul’s hanging would be a cruel and violent spectacle, unlawful under both Pakistani and international law, and an affront to justice and humanity. Abdul’s execution should be stayed, and the moratorium reinstated, before more lives are senselessly lost.”
A medical report seen by The Telegraph describes Basit’s paraplegia as a “complication of tuberculous meningitis.”
“At this moment, he is having 0/5 power in lower limbs and 4/5 power in upper limbs,” Dr Javaid Iqbal and Dr Anjum Mehdi wrote in the report.
“In our opinion, patients with this condition are usually permanently disabled and there is almost no chance of any recovery. He is likely to remain bed bound for his life,” they added.
Earlier this month Pakistan hanged Shafqat Hussain, a young man whose murder confession was extracted through torture when he was just 14 years old, according to his legal team and human rights groups.
United Nations rights experts said his trial “fell short of international standards” and had urged Pakistan to investigate claims he confessed under torture, as well as his age.
Should Basit’s hanging go ahead, it is understood to be the first case in Pakistan’s history of a state execution of a wheelchair-bound convict.
A similar incident occurred in 1993 in the United States where an “extremely disabled” killer was put to death in a Virginia prison.
Charles Stamper, 39, who suffered spinal injuries after a fight in prison, used leg braces and a walker to take his final steps to the electric chair.
July 29, 2015