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Fourth reprieve for 'teen' Pakistani killer amid international pressure

A Pakistani court in the city of Karachi reprieved Shafqat Hussain for the fourth time in less than six months. The UN and Amnesty International have both urged authorities to "halt the execution."

Shafqat Hussain was sentenced to death for the murder of a seven-year-old in the coastal city in 2004.

Pakistan's Supreme Court in the capital Islamabad on Wednesday agreed to hear Hussain's appeal from an earlier court decision, said the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a human rights law firm representing Hussain, Reuters news agency reported.

The JPP filed an appeal urging Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain offer their defendant clemency.

The reprieve marks the fourth time Shafqat Hussain has had his execution postponed in less than six months.

According to Hussain's lawyers, the defendant was 14 years old in 2004 when he confessed, and only did so after undergoing torture including having his fingernails removed and being burnt with cigarettes.

Hussain's hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.

'Sentencing a juvenile offender'

A group of UN human rights experts on Friday urged Pakistani authorities "to halt the execution," citing Hussain's purported age when he was convicted.

The UN and human rights organizations have criticized the Pakistani judiciary for also using Hussain's confession as evidence in the case.

"The farce around Shafqat Hussain's execution has gone for far too long - it is time to end it once and for all. The state has failed to prove definitely that Shaqfat was over 18 years of age at the time of his alleged crimes," said David Griffiths, deputy Pacific Asia director at Amnesty International, in a statement.

"Sentencing a juvenile offender to death, let alone executing him, is a clear violation of both international and Pakistani law," Griffiths added.

ls/msh (AFP, Reuters)