Pakistan court stays execution of mentally ill prisoner
Suffering from schizophrenia, Imdad Ali saved from the gallows for a week after appeal from rights groups.
Lahore, Pakistan – A mentally ill prisoner in Pakistan’s Punjab state, who was due to be hanged early on Tuesday, has received a one-week lifeline from the country’s Supreme Court after appeals from rights groups.
Imdad Ali could still be executed after the top court hears the case on September 27, despite the 50-year-old having been diagnosed with a severe case of schizophrenia.
Imdad, a household appliance repairman, was sentenced to death in 2001 for killing a local mosque imam in Vehari town, nearly 300km from Lahore, capital of Punjab state.
“We are extremely relieved to hear that the Supreme Court has stayed Imdad’s execution till next week,” said Sarah Belal of Justice Project Pakistan, whose organisation provides legal aid to vulnerable prisoners.
“The Honourable Court will finally be presented [with[ the overwhelming fact of his mental illness, one that has been repeatedly confirmed by the medical community, his family, and even the jail authorities,” she said in a statement.
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Safia Bano, Imdad’s wife, was informed about his imminent hanging on Friday. But now her hopes have been raised after the court order – though the fate of her husband still hangs in balance.
Bano told Al Jazeera she met her husband on Monday in his small, solitary cell where he has been confined since 2013. She said he had no idea he was going to die.
“He spoke of spirituality and black magic, which he used to be heavily involved in prior to killing the imam,” she said.
Bano said Imdad has suffered from mental illness since she married him in 1993.
“He never fought with me,” she said in a sheepish voice.
His adopted son Mudassir, who also visited him in jail, described Imdad as “delusional”.
Imdad is among the nearly 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan, which lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015 following a deadly attack on an army school a year before. Since then, close to 400 prisoners have been executed.
“Under Pakistan’s Prison Rules, the state is duty bound to provide treatment for Imdad’s schizophrenia and to shift him to a mental health facility. Instead, the state has turned a blind eye to his disabling mental illness for at least the past eight years,” Belal told Al Jazeera.
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Dr Usman Amin Hotiana, from Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, King Edward Medical University and Mayo Hospital, Lahore, confirmed that Imdad is mentally ill.
“I have seen Imdad’s detailed notes, but I have not treated him myself, and a prison medical officer also said he is not mentally fit,” Hotiana told Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera has seen medical documents that affirm Imdad’s medical condition, one of which said he suffers from “paranoid schizophrenia”, a chronic form of the illness.
There was no comment from the Punjab chief minister’s office by the time of publication.
“The federal and provincial governments still have time to halt this wrongful execution and give Imdad the medical treatment he so badly needs,” Belal said.
“Neither our religion nor our laws permit execution of a mentally ill patient.”
Last year, the execution of a Pakistani man – who was allegedly arrested as a juvenile and tortured into confessing to a murder – triggered an international outcry.
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