LHC demands immediate response on submission of list of Pakistanis jailed in Iran

Justice Shahid Waheed of Lahore High Court on Tuesday gave final warning to the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Interior and Ministry Of Overseas Pakistanis as well as the Human Resource Development department to submit their reply and list of Pakistanis on Iran’s death row in two weeks.

The judge admonished the federal government for asking more time to respond to a petition seeking details of Pakistani citizens on Iran’s death row, filed in May this year.

The judge inquired as there were so many Pakistanis languishing in Iran’s jails, “Don’t you care about them?”

The judge remarked that nearly five months had lapsed since the petition was filed and held that “no further adjournment will be granted after this period”.

The judge was hearing a petition filed on behalf of Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). Petitioner Counsel Barrister Sarah Belal sought details of Pakistanis imprisoned in Iran and the actions taken by the Pakistani government in order to get their death sentences reviewed under the recently amended Iranian drug laws. She also requested to direct the government to make immediate and forceful representations, as required by law, on behalf of Pakistani citizens on death row in Iran, both to secure reviews of their death sentence under the Amendment and to ensure their extradition to Pakistan.

Counsel submitted that in January 2018, the Iranian Supreme Court announced that those sentenced to death for drug crimes will have their sentences commuted only if they apply for such a commutation, verdicts will not be changed automatically. She argued that the Pakistanis sentenced to death in Iran under previous standards face imminent execution if applications for review are not filed on their behalf.

She said that the federal government had yet to submit a response to the petition which was filed by JPP on May 14, 2018. She said that the new Iranian drug laws entitle prisoners sentenced to death under previous standards to file reviews, however, the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and Pakistani Embassy in Tehran had not taken any steps to facilitate Pakistani prisoners entitled to relief.

She informed that on October 25, 2017, the Guardian Council of Islamic Republic of Iran passed a bill that amended its drug-trafficking laws to curtail the application of the death penalty to drug offenders. She said that this amendment increases the minimum amount of possession that subjects convicted producers and distributors to the death sentence from 30 grammes to 2 kilogrammes for synthetic substances and from 5 kilogrammes to 50 kilogrammes for natural substances.

She submitted that under the amendment, the death sentences for those under the previous standard of possession are entitled to be commuted to imprisonment up to 30 years and fine. She pointed out that this amendment was likely to commute sentences of around 5,300 prisoners currently on death row in Iran.

She submitted that a significant number of these are believed to be Pakistani nationals, although the official numbers remain unknown.

Published in Daily Times, September 12th 2018.