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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 13:29 GMT
Indian court suspends executions
Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani with his son at Delhi press conference
Mr Geelani, now reunited with his family, spent nearly two years in jail
India's Supreme Court has halted death sentences against two men convicted of planning the 2001 attack on parliament.

Mohammad Afzal and Shaukat Hussain Guru were convicted of waging war on the state and conspiracy to murder.

Five gunmen shot dead nine people in the parliament grounds in December 2001, before being killed themselves.

India accused Pakistan of being behind the attack which led to a crisis in diplomatic relations and brought the nuclear-armed neighbours close to war.

Appeals

Afzal and Guru were accused of plotting the attack with those who tried to storm the parliament.

Two other people, college professor Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani, and Guru's wife Afsan were acquitted in connection with the case.

The Supreme Court is hearing simultaneous appeals by Afzal and Guru against their death sentence and by the police against the two acquittals.

On Monday the court directed Mr Geelani and Ms Guru to seek the court's permission before leaving the country.

It has also asked for all the trial papers ahead of the next hearing on 20 February.

The death sentences, handed down in December last year, were the first under India's tough new Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Afzal and Guru have already lost an appeal against their sentence in a lower court and the Supreme Court is their last chance to seek to have it overturned.

If that fails they can appeal for clemency to the Indian president.

About 300 MPs and government leaders were in the parliament building when it was attacked.

The gunmen were killed before they could enter the building.

Troops mobilised

India claimed Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence agency was behind the attack.

Pakistan condemned the raid and denied involvement.

But the crisis continued and both countries mobilised troops along their border in the summer of 2002 before international pressure forced them to back down.

A thaw in relations since then has seen diplomatic ties and transport links restored.

Earlier this month the leaders of India and Pakistan held ground-breaking talks during which they agreed to discuss all outstanding issues between them, including the long-running Kashmir dispute.


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