Don't execute Veerappan associates: Amnesty

Amnesty International Thursday urged India not to execute the four associates of the late forest brigand Veerappan whose mercy plea have been rejected.

"India must immediately halt the impending executions of four prisoners whose mercy petitions were rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee," Amnesty said in a statement.

The presidential action marks the final course of appeal in the country's justice system.

According to officials, the four are Gnanprakasham, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran. They are lodged in a jail in Karnataka. Amnesty said they were "now at high risk of imminent execution".

The president's move came just days after the hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was the second man to be hanged in India in less than three months.

"This government has executed more people since November 2012 than in the previous 10 years. To continue such a regressive trend would be truly shameful," said Amnesty India chief G. Ananthapadmanabhan.

"Given the political climate and the two other recent executions, there is a real concern that these four men will be put to death soon. The Indian government must ensure that this does not happen."

The four were convicted in 1993 for their involvement in a landmine blast that killed 22 people and injured many including policemen who were on their way to arrest sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.

Amnesty added: "This new practice of executing in secret without prior notification to relatives is deeply worrying.

"We urge the Indian government to immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition."

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty as a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as the ultimate cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

It opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception.

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