Pak death row convict released after 21 years

A Pakistani man, who spent the last 21 years on death row for a crime he was convicted of committing when he was a juvenile, has been released, according to a non-profit.

According to the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), the non-profit, human rights law firm, Muhammad Iqbal was only 17 years old in 1998 when he was arrested and consequently sentenced to death a year later, Dawn news reported on Wednesday.

In 2000, Pakistan passed the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), making it illegal for juveniles to be handed the death sentence.

A presidential notification of 2001 subsequently provided remission to all juveniles sentenced prior to the ordinance.

However, Iqbal continued to languish on death row despite his proven juvenility, the JPP said in a statement on Tuesday.

A letter, it added, was written by the Punjab government to the Lahore High Court in 2003, listing Iqbal as one of the prisoners entitled to remission.

Several human rights groups and US special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Pakistani 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 17m Dawn news quoted the non-profit as saying.

“Two decades later, the Lahore High Court had finally acknowledged that Iqbal was wronged and did not deserve to be on death row,” it said.

His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in February 2020 and Iqbal was released from jail on Tuesday, after it was established that he has already served a life term.