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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 14:17 GMT
Stay of execution over India raid
Mohammed Afzal, Shaukat Hussain Guru and Syed Abdul Rahman Geelani
Afzal (left), Hussain (in cap) and Geelani: Convicted of plotting the attack
India's Supreme Court has delayed the execution of an alleged Islamic militant, Mohammed Afzal, in connection with an attack on parliament in 2001.

Last month, the court issued a similar stay of execution for another man convicted of plotting the raid, Shaukat Hussain Guru.

The stays were ordered on Friday, pending appeal hearings by the court.

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

The court on Friday also heard a petition from Delhi police challenging the acquittal of two other accused in this case, SAR Geelani and Navjot Sandhu.

The pair were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

The court asked the police to reply within four weeks, giving the reasons for challenging the acquittal.

Last chance

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

Indian parliament attack, December 2001
Fourteen people died, including the five gunmen, in the attack

The pair 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.

India blamed the parliament raid on the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, which it said was backed by Pakistan.

Pakistan denied involvement.

Relations between the two nations deteriorated after the attack.

They mobilised up to a million men along their common border, leading to international concern about a possible war.

Ties have thawed since last April, when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee offered a gesture of friendship to Pakistan on a visit to Kashmir.


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