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A young prisoner sentenced to death was released 21 years later

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KARACHI: Muhammad Iqbal, who spent 21 years in jail after being sentenced to death at an early age, has finally been released.

According to the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), Muhammad Iqbal committed the crime when he was legally a minor, i.e., under 18 years of age.

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Justice Project Pakistan is a non-profit, human rights law firm that provides free legal advice, representation, and investigative services to poor and vulnerable prisoners facing harsh sentences.

According to a statement from the advocacy group, Muhammad Iqbal was only 17 years old in 1998 when he was arrested and sentenced to death a year later.

According to the Justice Project, Pakistan passed the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JSSO) in 2000, after which the death penalty for minors became illegal.

Legal juveniles who were sentenced to death before the ordinance was pardoned by a presidential decree in 2001.

However, Muhammad Iqbal remained on the death row despite being legally underage.

The statement said that the Punjab government had written a letter to the Lahore High Court in 2003 and added Iqbal to the list of prisoners eligible for release.

Several human rights organizations, including the UN special envoy, wrote a letter to the Pakistani government in March seeking mercy and commutation of Iqbal’s death sentence.

The letter said Iqbal was only 17 years old when he was convicted of theft and murder.

“After two decades, the Lahore High Court finally acknowledged that Iqbal had been wronged and did not deserve to wait for the death sentence,” the statement said.

Therefore, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in February this year, and he was released on June 30, 2020, when it was proved that he had already served his life sentence.

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