India: Four death row prisoners at imminent risk of execution - as spate amplifies

India must immediately halt the impending executions of four prisoners whose mercy petitions, the final course of appeal in the country’s justice system, have been rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee, Amnesty International said today.

The four prisoners; Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran are now at high risk of imminent execution.

The President’s rejection of the mercy appeals, is extremely worrying, as it comes just days after the hanging of Afzal Guru, which was the second execution in India in fewer than three months, following an eight-year hiatus in executions.

Ananth Guruswamy, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India, said:

“This government has executed more people since November 2012 than in the previous ten years. To continue such a regressive trend would be truly shameful.

“Given the political climate and the two other recent executions, there is a real concern that these four men will be put to death soon. The Indian government must ensure that this does not happen.

“This new practice of executing in secret without prior notification to relatives is deeply worrying. We urge the Indian government to immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition.”

The four men were convicted in 1993 for their involvement in a landmine blast that killed 22 people, and injured many others, including members of the police who were on their way to arrest the notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan in the state of Karnataka.

They were originally sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in Karnataka set up under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act (TADA), but on appeal their sentences were increased to the death penalty by the Supreme Court, in 2004. They all filed mercy petitions in 2004, and it has taken nearly a decade for them to receive an answer to their petitions. The Supreme Court, in a different case, ruled that an inordinate delay in deciding on mercy petitions can be grounds for commutation of a death sentence. The four men are reportedly in the process challenging the rejection of their mercy plea.

Since November 2012, the Indian authorities have consistently failed to make all the information about the rejection of mercy petitions and the dates of execution available to the public prior to death sentences being carried out. In one case, the family received the notice of the imminent execution only after it had been carried out.

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