Amid Protests, India Executes Man in '01 Parliament Attack

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MUMBAI, India -- India hanged a man on Saturday who had been convicted of involvement in a 2001 attack on Parliament that killed nine people.

The hanging of the man, Muhammad Afzal, also known as Afzal Guru, a 43-year-old militant with the group Jaish-e-Muhammad, came more than a decade after the Dec. 13, 2001, suicide attack on India's Parliament, in which five gunmen armed with grenades, guns and explosives opened fire, killing nine people, most of them security officials. The execution drew protests from human rights groups concerned about the growing use of capital punishment in such cases.

Mr. Afzal was convicted of conspiracy in the plot and sentenced to death by a special court in 2002. In 2004, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence.

After the execution, clashes broke out in Mr. Afzal's hometown, Sopore, in the northern part of Jammu and Kashmir State, and the police and paramilitary units were called to restore order. Days before the execution, President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected a plea for mercy from Mr. Afzal's wife, according to reports from The Press Trust of India, paving the way for his hanging in the Tihar Jail complex near New Delhi, officials said.

The clashes in Mr. Afzal's hometown after his death came despite the imposition of a strict curfew in the region in anticipation of trouble from separatist leaders, according to news reports.

The authorities in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, asked residents to remain indoors and closed the national highway for one day.

Omar Abdullah, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, appealed for peace and calm.

"I understand there is a certain degree of angst and there are some people who would like to take advantage of the situation," Mr. Abdullah said. "I appeal to the people to allow us to get through this with peace and not to resort to violent protests."

Officials from the ruling Congress Party said the execution was a sign that India would not tolerate acts of terror.

"Anybody committing any acts of terror will be punished," said a Congress Party spokesman, Rashid Alvi. "People of our country and government have zero tolerance for terrorism."

But the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party criticized the government's delay in carrying out the execution.

"The attack on the Indian Parliament happened in 2001, that is 12 years ago, which was an attack on India," said a party spokesman, Ravi Shankar Prasad.

On Nov. 21, India hanged Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving Pakistani gunman from the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, ending an eight-year moratorium on the death penalty and drawing criticism from rights groups, which they reiterated Saturday.

"The hanging of Afzal Guru, following closely behind the hanging of Ajmal Kasab in November, shows a very worrying trend by the Indian government," said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment."

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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