ANAA condemns the death sentence of Mr. Zahid Masih as it is alleged that proper investigation of the case was not done and he was not given proper legal representation.
AHRC has done a great service by bringing this issue to the public.
Please send the appeal to appropriate people as suggested by AHRC.
Death by hanging of a man set on March 12 after confessing due to torture by military
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the death sentence of a man from minority community, who is due to be executed on 12 March 2008. He was charged with murder however, he was allegedly severely tortured after the illegal arrest. It is also alleged that he was not provided any legal representative during the military trial. He was not allowed to communicate with his parent during his two years of military custody and meet his parents only after the military court convicted him.
According to the information received, Mr. Zahid Masih son of Salamat Masih was recruited in the Pakistan Army as a sanitary worker and sweeper in August 2001 at the cantonment of Multan city, Punjab province. After some months he was transferred to another cantonment at Tarbella- Punjab province, 600 kilometers far from Multan, his hometown. He served in Tarbella cantonment for almost two years and in 2003 he was again transferred to another place, the Chirat, a cantonment at Peshawar in province of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) as a sweeper because of his good work and loyalty to officers.
He joined Regiment/Unit 4 Commando Battalion (Special Service Group) Chirat. When he reached and joined service at Chirat cantonment he heard that a 9-year-old boy was sexually molested and murdered by unknown persons among the staff of the cantonment and there was a military investigation going on. After one weak of joining service he was given two months leave to go home for recreation as it is a common feature that, whenever there is a transfer the staff is allowed to have leave. Zahid Masih went to Multan to meet his parents and other family members and after two months he returned to Chirat to resume his duties. Till that time the investigation of murder was going on. Suddenly, one month after his return Zahid Masih was disappeared from the work place and his whereabouts were not known to the family for about two years.
Zahid's family later found him in Central jail at Peshawar charged with murder under Section 302 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). He was accused of committing sodomy and killing the nine-year-old boy, Muhammad Adnan on 1 March 2005. The Military Court found Zahid guilty and sentenced him death on 10 March 2006.
While in the military custody for 2 years, he was extensively interrogated for 28 days consecutively and he was severely tortured to confess to the murder of the boy. Due to the severity of the torture he had no choice but to confess even though he alleged that he was innocent. Some Orderlies of officers came and persuaded him that if he confessed the officers would provide him with relief. Mr. Mohammad Khusheed son of Mohammad Nawaz, the orderly of an army officer, conveyed this message to him with saying that his confession would save the image of Pakistan Army. Zahid Masih informed these facts to his brother in a letter. However, Zahid was not allowed to meet with his family during his trial in the cantonment by a military court and the family did also not know about that.
When Zahid Masih was allowed to meet his family in early 2008, he told his family that he was made an escape goat as he was Christian and a sweeper. He further said that the messengers from officers of Chirat cantonments convinced him that he would be free from the charges if he confessed the crime. He alleged that military persons at cantonment killed the boy and they wanted to shift the offence to weakest person.
On 20 January 2008, Zahid's mother wrote a mercy appeal to the President and human rights groups and the Church leadership wrote letters to the authorities, including the President. Due to this intervention, the execution date was delayed for 20 days however, it is again scheduled on 12 March 2008.
Pakistan is among the top in the list of countries with the highest number of executions (along with China, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and USA). It has approximately 7,400 convicts awaiting execution. According to the Amnesty International 2007 report, 82 persons were executed in 2006. A local source claimed that 109 people have been awarded death sentence in the first 9 months of 2007 and about 10,000 were executed in Pakistan in the past 11 years.
According to the PPC 302, which Zahid Masih is charged under: whoever commits pre-meditated murder shall be punished with (a) death as "retaliation"; (b) death or imprisonment for life as corporal punishment to be administered at the discretion of the judge; and (c) imprisonment of up to 25 years, provided it is not committed in the name or the pretext of honour.
According to the PPC section 304, the proof of murder could be in form of voluntary and true confession before a competent court that the accused committed the offence; and by evidence as provided in Article 17 of the Qanun-e-Shahadat, 1984 (P.O. No. 10 of 1984), based on the competence of a person to testify and the number of witnesses required accordingly.
Local sources claim that the penal system in Pakistan is full of loopholes and defects. It may be better sometimes not to hang the alleged killers due to mal-administration of justice, police service dereliction, and cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities.
It has also been commented that the laws have become "tools for personal vendettas against vulnerable segments of society, including the poor and minorities" and are often "manipulated, especially in blasphemy cases, where both judicial system and police department investigate with bias, without checking veracity of the facts."
Please write the letter and fax to the following authorities showing your concern of what appears to be an unfair trial and a confession obtained by torture. Please also demand clemency as he is innocent of this crime and at the time of murder of young boy he was doing job in anther cantonment of Tarbela. After his transfer to Chirat he was booked in the case only because he was from a minority community and a weak target as being the sweeper, the most lowest job.
The AHRC writes letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture and working group on arbitrary detention calling for urgent intervention in this case.