European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Monday denounced the recent execution of Mohammed Afzal Guru, who was convicted of involvement in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, and reiterated the European bloc's firm opposition to the death penalty irrespective of the seriousness of the crimes committed by the convicted prisoners.
"While recognizing that terrible murders were committed at the heart of this case and aware of the suffering of the victims and their families, the EU reiterates its principled opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances and calls on India to re-establish a moratorium on executions, in line with the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment," Ashton said in a statement issued by her office on Monday.
Nevertheless, EU's top diplomat added that the European bloc continues to "support India in the fight against terrorism and look forward to continuing to work together in this area."
Afzal Guru, 43, was hanged to death inside the Tihar prison complex in the Indian capital city of New Delhi early on Saturday, after his mercy plea was rejected by the country's president on January 26.
Earlier, India's Supreme Court had handed down the death penalty to Afzal Guru after convicting him of conspiring with and sheltering militants who attacked the Indian Parliament in December 2001.
A group of five heavily-armed terrorists had stormed the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. Eight police officers and a gardener were shot dead by the attackers before they themselves were gunned down by security forces.
A few days later, Afzal Guru was arrested in connection with the Parliament attack. Despite claiming innocence, he was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in 2002. Although the court set an execution date for October 2006, it was delayed after Afzal Guru's wife filed a mercy petition with the president.
The Indian government blamed the Parliament attack on Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, and accused the Pakistani intelligence of aiding the attackers. Relations between the two Asian countries deteriorated significantly after the 2001 attack. Pakistan, however, denied involvement in the attack.
In November last year, Pakistani-born terrorist Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving accused in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, was hanged to death in the Indian city of Pune. India had blamed that attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, another Pakistan-based militant group fighting New Delhi's rule in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Official figures indicate that the 18-year old insurgency in Kashmir has left more than 43,000 people dead. India accuses Pakistan of supporting and sheltering Kashmiri separatists, but Pakistan denies the allegation.
Both India and Pakistan have deployed thousands of troops along the 460-mile-long line of control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between the nations. Notably, the two south Asian nuclear-armed neighbors have already fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, of which two were over Kashmir.
Nevertheless, the two neighbors have maintained a ceasefire along the LoC for over six years. Although their relations hit an all time low after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, New Delhi and Islamabad began a process of re-engagement in February 2010.
by RTT Staff Writer
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