Prime minister urged to abolish death penalty

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) A rights panel Monday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to abolish death penalty and spare sandalwood smuggler Veerappan's four aides, facing execution after their mercy pleas were rejected by the president.

The president Feb 12 rejected the mercy petitions of Gnanprakasham, Simon Antonyiappa, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran, sentenced to death for killing 22 people, including policemen, in a landmine blast near Palar bridge on the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border in 1993.

"We request the prime minister to abolish death penalty and spare the aides of Veerappan who are facing death sentence," Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) director Suhas Chakma said.

"Since the government of India cannot execute those convicted of the murder of Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh, it appears that Gnanprakasham, Simon Antonyiappa, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran will be executed to address the negative fall-out following the execution of Afzal Guru," Chakma added.

"If India continues with the current spree of execution of those whose mercy pleas are rejected or those who could not file mercy pleas, India will become one of the top five executioners of the world along with...China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq," said a statement from the ACHR.

"India considered cases of at least 5,776 death row convicts during 2001 to 2011, i.e. 4,321 convicts whose death sentences were commuted to life sentences and 1,455 convicts whose death sentence were confirmed by the courts," Chakma said.