Commute Sarabjit's sentence to win Indian hearts: Lawyer

Awais Sheikh, who took up Sarabjit's case in June last year, has filed mercy petition and also written a letter signed by thousands of Indians to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari pleading for the release of his client or at least commuting it to life imprisonment.

"In the letter, I have referred to the President (Asif Ali Zardari) that Sarabjit's case is now linked with India and Pakistan relations. He be either set free or his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. (By doing it) You will win the hearts of over one billion Indians," Sheikh, who was recently on a visit to India , said.

Sarabjit was convicted of alleged involvement in bomb blasts in Punjab province in 1990. Though he was to be hanged on April 1 last year, the execution was put off indefinitely following Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's intervention.

The lawyer, who wants the two neighbours to abolish death penalty and also release the citizens of each other's country languishing in jails, said the decision of the Lahore High Court to allow him to meet Sarabjit about two months ago was a "good development" as far as the case was concerned.

Indo-Pak ties are going through a turbulent phase following 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. "The High Court's decision allowed me to meet Sarabjit, who is in a solitary confinement in a Lahore jail for past 19 years. I am the only person in India and Pakistan to meet him," Sheikh said.

He claimed that due to his efforts the case has got a new life.

Terming Sarabjit's case as a "clear-cut case of mistaken identity", he said, "Now the acceptance has come in from people... So far, he was branded as Indian terrorist in Pakistan. I have also maintained that there is no mention of his name in the FIR."
He said he is penning a book titled 'Sarabjit: A Case of Mistaken Identity' highlighting his life in prison and the case.

"The two countries should also abolish death penalty and I am highlighting this point in the book. I am hoping to complete the process soon. I am also looking for an Indian publisher," he added.

According to the Lahore High Court, Sheikh said he can meet Sarabjit by writing an application to Home Department Secretary and in the presence of an intelligence official.

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