India frees two death row Muslims in 1996 blast case

Updated 23 November 2012
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India frees two death row Muslims in 1996 blast case

NEW DELHI: An Indian court yesterday acquitted two Kashmiri Muslims sentenced to death for a 1996 car bomb attack in a New Delhi shopping arcade that killed 13 people.
The two men, Mirza Nissar Hussain and Ali Bhat, were handed death sentences by a lower court in 2010 but the Delhi High Court set them free and slammed police for a poor investigation into the bomb attack.
The judges commuted the death penalty of a third man convicted in the case to a life sentence, Press Trust of India reported.
The police failed to adhere to a “minimum standard” in probing the blast that ripped through the Lajpat Nagar shopping area, judges Ravindra Bhat and G.P. Mittal said in overturning the death sentences.
“A test identification parade was not conducted and statements of vital witnesses were not recorded,” the judges added.
Police had accused Hussain and Bhat of belonging to the outlawed Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front militant group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory.
The overturning of the death sentences came a day after India executed the sole surviving Islamist gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.
India says it imposes capital punishment in only the “rarest of rare” cases.
No doubts had been expressed in India about the guilt of Pakistan-born Mohammad Ajmal Qasab, 25, who was captured on camera wielding an automatic weapon.
But opponents of India’s death penalty say convictions of many others on death row involve much less certain evidence.
In July, 14 retired Supreme Court and High Court judges asked India’s President Pranab Mukherjee to commute the death sentences of 13 inmates that they said had been “erroneously upheld” by the Supreme Court over the past nine years.
After Qasab’s hanging, New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the Indian government to reinstate its “unofficial” eight-year moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
India earlier this week voted against a UN resolution to end the death penalty.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 19 April 2018
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Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.