'Afzal Guru's trial was a sham, his hanging is a shame'

Bangalore - Condemning the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru Saturday morning, a noted human rights lawyer and activist said that it is a sad day for Indian democracy because Guru was not given a fair trial.

“It is a sad day for Indian democracy. Afzal Guru never got a fair trial. After a sham trial, he was hanged today more for political reasons than for justice,” B T Venkatesh, a lawyer who has fought – and continues to fight – cases for many terror accused, told Newzfirst.

“He never got a good lawyer. Although he requested for a lawyer, in particular R. K. Anand, the government appointed 3 to 4 lawyers who never presented his case completely. He asked them to say many things but the lawyers did not do so. The constitution of India clearly says that every under-trial is entitled to a lawyer according to his wish,” Venkatesh added.

“The judge was unwilling to listen to his pleas. I have always said that it is the poorer and backward sections of the society who are targeted and who suffer the most. Guru’s is one such example,” he said.

Condemning the death sentence, Venkatesh said that death sentence in itself is a “crime against humanity”.

“Even Ambedkar seeks for the abolishment of death penalty. It is unacceptable irrespective of whoever it might be awarded to,” Venkatesh said.

Human rights group says this is a worrying trend

"The hanging of Afzal Guru, following closely behind the hanging of (Mumbai attack convict) Ajmal Kasab in November, shows a very worrying trend by the Indian government," Human Rights Watch said.

"Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment," said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

Hanged on Saturday morning

Afzal Guru was hanged in the national capital's Tihar Jail at 8 a.m. Saturday, less than a week after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy plea, officials said.

"Afzal Guru was hanged at 8 a.m.," Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters.

"We received the president's rejection of his mercy plea on Feb 3. We moved accordingly then," he said.

Security has been stepped up in some towns, he added.

Afzal Guru was given the death sentence by the Supreme Court in 2004. His hanging was scheduled for October 2006, but was stayed after his wife filed a mercy petition.

Nine people were killed in the Dec 13, 2001 parliament attack when five heavily-armed Pakistani terrorists drove into the Parliament complex and opened fire. There were about 100 MPs in the building at the time of the attack.

The terrorists were shot dead.

Guru was convicted of plotting the terror attack.

Asked if he had been kept in the loop, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said: "Absolutely."

He told CNN-IBN that Guru's body will be buried within the jail campus, according to the jail manual rules, and not handed over to his relatives in Kashmir.

The burial would be done according to religious rites, he added.

"As per jail manual, the burial of a convict is held inside the prison campus," he said.

He also said he did not apprehend any law and order problems.

A curfew has been clamped in parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been repeatedly demanding the execution of Afzal Guru and questioned the delay in his hanging, welcomed the execution, but said it was a "delayed decision".

Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP said: " Hanging of Afzal Guru is the right thing. We welcome the decision. The people of the country were waiting for it. But it was a delayed decision."

(With inputs from IANS)

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