activists celebrate with firecrackers after the execution of Mohammed Afzal Guru in New Delhi
New Delhi ‘executes’ man for 2001 attack on Parliament Security forces impose curfew in Kashmir

NEW DELHI, Feb 9, (Agencies): A Kashmiri man convicted in a 2001 attack on India’s Parliament that left 14 people dead was hanged Saturday after a final mercy plea was rejected, a senior Indian Home Ministry official said.

Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters that Mohammed Afzal Guru was executed early Saturday morning at New Delhi’s Tihar prison.

“It was the law taking its course,” Singh said.

Guru was given a Muslim burial in the prison compound, Press Trust of India news agency reported. His family in the India’s Jammu-Kashmir state has demanded that his body be handed over, but that seems unlikely given the highly sensitive nature of the execution.

Guru had been on death row since first being convicted in 2002. Subsequent appeals in higher courts were also rejected, and India’s Supreme Court set an execution date for October 2006. But his execution was delayed after his wife filed a mercy petition with India’s president. That petition, the last step in the judicial process, was turned down earlier this week.

Several rights groups across India and political groups in Indian Kashmir have said that Guru did not get a fair trial.

“Serious questions have been raised about the fairness of Afzal Guru’s trial,” Shashikumar Velath, Amnesty International India’s programs director, said in a statement. “He did not receive legal representation of his choice or a lawyer with adequate experience at the trial stage. These concerns were not addressed.”

Protests broke out Saturday in at least four parts of Indian Kashmir, including the northwestern town of Sopore, which was Guru’s home. Scores of protesters chanting slogans including “We want freedom” and “Down with India” defied a curfew and clashed with police and paramilitary troops, who opened fire. Four protesters sustained bullet wounds and one of them was in critical condition, a senior police officer said on customary condition of anonymity.

Thousands of police and paramilitary troops fanned out across the state preparing for more protests and violence following the announcement of the execution. A curfew was also imposed in most parts of Indian Kashmir, and cable television channels were cut off in the region.

About 30 Kashmiri students and anti-death penalty activists clashed with Indian police and right-wing Hindu groups in New Delhi. Most of the protesters were detained by the police.

Police in Indian Kashmir on Saturday also detained several leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organization of separatist political and religious groups, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters.

Meanwhile, security forces imposed a curfew Saturday in parts of Indian-administered Kashmir while the centre of the main city Srinagar was sealed off by police after the execution of a separatist.

Residents in rural areas said police used loud hailers to order them to stay indoors from daybreak as it emerged that Mohammed Afzal Guru, a member of an Islamist group fighting Indian rule in the divided region, was to be hanged.

Although there was no formal curfew order in Srinagar, police hastily erected barricades across main entry roads and in the city centre in a bid to prevent any possible demonstrations against the execution.

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