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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 10:42 GMT
Families give back bravery medals
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Mohammed Afzal
The Supreme Court has upheld Afzal's conviction
Families of six policemen killed in an attack on the Indian parliament five years ago have returned their bravery medals to President APJ Abdul Kalam.

They are demanding that Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri facing execution for helping militants in the attack, should be hanged.

The president is considering a clemency petition filed by Afzal and his family.

The attack on parliament on 13 December 2001 left 14 people dead, including five militants and six policemen.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Afzal Guru have filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to reopen the case.

"The government had decided to hang Afzal Guru on 20 October. Why has that been put off? Why are our martyrs being insulted?" asked the wife of Vijender Singh, one of the dead policemen.

"My husband died for the country. Now the children of a terrorist should also suffer the way my children have been suffering for the past five years. We want him hanged," said the wife of another policeman killed in the attack.

On the fifth anniversary of the attack, members of parliament observed a two-minute silence and paid floral tributes to those who lost their lives in the attack.

Slogan shouting

But the occasion was also used by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to step up pressure on the government to carry out the death sentence handed down to Afzal Guru.

The house adjourned amidst uproar as BJP members demanded that Afzal Guru be hanged immediately.

Ever since the Supreme Court upheld Afzal's conviction and set a date for his execution in October, those for and against his hanging have begun active campaigns.

The Afzal family's mercy petition is yet to be decided. The president has forwarded it to the interior ministry and is waiting for its recommendations.

Tabassum Guru, the wife of Mohammad Afzal
Afzal's wife has submitted a mercy plea to the president

Speaking to journalists outside parliament, junior Home Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal said every individual had the right to seek clemency.

The government's left-wing allies, too, are opposed to the death sentence.

Legal experts say no clear-cut guidelines on deciding mercy petitions exist.

No real discretion

They say the factors generally taken into account while examining such petitions are - personality of the convict, age, sex, mental condition or circumstances of the case.

Officials at the President's House say he is bound by the advice of the council of ministers and has no real discretion in the matter.

During the past decade, the president has rejected seven mercy petitions and commuted the sentences of two.

More than 20 clemency petitions are reported to be pending with the government.

Lawyers say a convict facing the death sentence cannot be hanged until his or her mercy petition is rejected.

The December 2001 attack was one of the most controversial incidents in recent Indian history.

Mohammed Afzal was one of two men sentenced to death. But the punishment for Shaukat Hussain was later reduced to 10 years in jail on appeal.

Two other two accused in the case, SAR Geelani and Afsan Guru, were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

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

Pakistan denied involvement in the attack but relations between the two countries nosedived as their armies massed about a million troops along the border.

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