ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan has stayed the execution of a man charged as a child with murder for three days just hours before he was due to hang, media said on Thursday, amid emotional appeals to the government for mercy.
Lawyers for Shafqat Hussain say he was just 14 in 2004, when he was burnt with cigarettes and had fingernails removed until he confessed to the killing of a child. He was due to have been hanged on Thursday.
The human rights group Reprieve said an inquiry would be conducted into his age at the time of conviction and the torture he suffered before "confessing" to the crime, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Pakistan on Wednesday hanged nine people, taking to 21 the number of executions in two days, for a tally of 48 since an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in December. Twelve were executed on Tuesday.
The death sentence cannot be used against a defendant under 18 when the crime was committed. Testimony obtained by torture is also inadmissible.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on Dec. 17, a day after Pakistani Taliban gunmen attacked a school and killed 134 pupils and 19 adults.
Fatima Bhutto, the niece of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, had taken up Shafqat Hussain's cause.
"There was no moment of reflection, no introspection, only a knee-jerk call for vengeance," Fatima Bhutto said in the New York Times of the lifting of the moratorium. "In Pakistan, blood will always have blood."
Hussain's family made heartrending appeals to the government on Wednesday, complaining of a flawed justice system that allowed months of torture to extract a confession.
Human rights groups say convictions in Pakistan are highly unreliable because its antiquated criminal justice system barely functions, torture is common and police are mostly untrained.
(Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)