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Tuesday, 18 April, 2000, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Reprieve for Pakistani woman

By Shahid Malik in Lahore

Pakistan's President, Rafiq Tarrar, has temporarily suspended a death penalty sentence handed down to a woman who was to become the first female to receive capital punishment in the country's history.

Fatima Bibi, 35, who was to be hung at Faisalabad Prison in Punjab province on Wednesday, had been found guilty of murdering six people, including five children.

Prison officials say the stay of execution means there could be the possibility of a reprieve.

President Muhammad Rafiq Tarrar originally turned down Ms Bibi's appeal following the decision by the country's Supreme Court.

President Tarrar
President Rafiq Tarrar suspended the capital punishment for three weeks
The deputy superintendent of the district prison in the western Punjab city of Faisalabad told the BBC that no reason for the suspension had been given.

He also said that defence lawyers had recently met relatives of the woman who had been hacked to death by Ms Bibi, along with her five children, nine years ago.

Blood money

The prosecution claims that Ms Bibi had been having an affair with the woman's husband, who has already been hanged for his role in the killings.

Prison officials say the suspension of Fatima Bibi's sentence has opened the possibility of the victim's family agreeing to forgo the death penalty.

Islamic sections of the Pakistan Penal Code provide for the payment of compensation to the victim's next of kin to reprieve a murderer.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Henna Jilani, has renewed the call for a total ban on capital punishment.

Ms Jilani said that while the commission was against the Islamic sections of the code that put a price on human life, it was concerned about this particular case and urged the government to overturn Fatima Bibi's sentence.

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27 Mar 00 | South Asia
Serial killer sentence 'un-Islamic'
16 Mar 00 | South Asia
Few executions in Pakistan
02 Feb 00 | South Asia
Death penalty for Shia killers
30 Nov 99 | South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny
23 May 99 | South Asia
Protest over children on death row
08 Jan 99 | South Asia
Supreme court puts hold on executions
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