ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani court on Monday commuted the death sentence for a defendant who has spent the last 18 years on death row for a crime he was convicted of committing when he was a juvenile, a local advocacy group said.
The Lahore High Court reduced Mohammad Iqbal’s sentence to life in prison.
“This is a landmark judgment that could set a precedent for future cases pertaining to juvenile offenders in Pakistan,” said Ali Haider Habib, a spokesman with Justice Project Pakistan.
Iqbal was found guilty of murder and robbery committed when he was just 17. He has been in jail since 1999 when an anti-terrorism court sentenced him to death, and on death row since March 2002.
Several human rights groups and United Nations special rapporteurs sent a letter to Pakistan’s government in March seeking leniency, asking that Iqbal’s death sentence be commuted. The letter stated that he was charged with murder and robbery when he was just 17 and that he had been tortured in police custody prior to a charge being laid.
According to the March letter, Iqbal should have been freed in 2001 when Pakistan’s president granted a general amnesty to all prisoners sentenced to death for crimes they committed as a juvenile. Yet Iqbal was not released.
Pakistan is a signatory to international conventions that recognizes anyone under the age of 18 years old as a child.
The Associated Press