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Hanging commuted, Sarabjit's family celebrates

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: May 04, 2008 00:09 IST
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The family of Sarabjit Singh, Indian prisoner on death row in Pakistan, erupted with joy on Saturday as news of the Pakistan government commuting his hanging reached them.

"When I tied Rakhi on his arm, he was emotionally charged and said that he had nothing to give me. First half an hour was spent in crying. Then he told us how a fake case had been foisted on him by the Pakistani police and a judgment was delivered with the help of purchased witnesses. He hoped that we would meet again soon at his village," Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur told, hours after she learnt that Pakistan government had decided to commute his death sentence.

Messages of congratulations poured in from all quarters and the entire village collected at Gurudwara Babadeep Singh to convey their sentiments on the news that the 'son of the soil' would return home soon.

Sarabjit, whose family says that he is the victim of mistaken identity, was to be hanged on April 1, after being convicted of involvement in 1990 blasts that killed four people in Lahore.

But President Pervez Musharraf, who had earlier rejected a mercy petition, delayed the execution until April 30. The execution was further delayed by Pakistan authorities a few days before April 30, on technical grounds.

Significantly, the latest reprieve for Sarabjit, who is lodged in a Lahore prison for the last 18 years, comes days ahead of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Pakistan on May 21. Moves are also afoot in Pakistan to commute death sentences to life terms.

Sarabjit's elder daughter Swapandeep Kaur said, "We are very happy. We prayed in a Gurudwara for our father's early return."

Additional Reportage: PTI

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi