Sarabjit Got Death Threats After Afzal's Hanging: Lawyer

Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh had spoken of a threat to his life from a fellow prisoner after the execution in India of Afzal Guru but Pakistani authorities failed to provide him adequate security, his lawyer said today.

"Sarabjit told me and a CID (Crime Investigation Department) official after the execution of Afzal Guru that a prisoner in Kot Lakhpat Jail had issued death threats. I brought this to the knowledge of prison authorities and the Punjab Home Department but they did not beef up his security," Awais Sheikh, Sarabjit's counsel, told PTI.

The execution earlier this year of Guru, convicted of involvement in a 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament, had triggered protests across Pakistan.

Several jihadi groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba had pledged to avenge Guru's death.

When Chambail Singh, another Indian prisoner in Kot Lakhpat Jail, died after allegedly being assaulted by prison staff in January, Sheikh filed an application in the Lahore High Court seeking stringent security for Sarabjit.

"The jail authorities are responsible for the attack on Sarabjit. Where were the jail staff when he was attacked?" Sheikh said. 

Leading rights activist Ansar Burney too said that he had written to the President, Prime Minister and federal Interior Ministry in January to increase security for Sarabjit after Chamel Singh's death.

"There were serious threats to Sarabjit. After Chamel Singh's death, I alerted authorities that he may be in danger," Burney told PTI.

"This was a murderous attack and the outcome of a conspiracy. How can a death row prisoner, who is held in strict security, be attacked?" he questioned.

Burney, who frequently visits jails across Pakistan to take up the issues of inmates, described the section of Kot Lakhpat Jail where Sarabjit was being held as a "jail within a jail".

He said: "Where did the other prisoners get the bricks and blades that they used to attack Sarabjit?"

Burney said he believed that the conspiracy to target Sarabjit might have its roots in the "Talibanisation" creeping across Pakistan.

"Look at the upcoming polls, political parties are campaigning only in Punjab because of threats from militants. The Chief Justice is too busy with all kinds of things and doesn't even take up the issue of prisoners," he said.

He said he planned to approach the President with a fresh petition seeking Sarabjit's release and repatriation.

"Sarabjit has already served 23 years in jail, which is equivalent to a life sentence. He cannot be hanged now. In view of the threat to his life, he should be freed and sent back to India," Burney said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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