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Pakistan's top court says schizophrenics can be executed

The Supreme Court has ruled that schizophrenia does not qualify as a mental illness, meaning Pakistan can execute a 50-year-old convicted of murdering a cleric in 2001. The ruling called it a "recoverable disease."

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Anwer Zaheer Jamali ruled on Friday that schizophrenia was "not a permanent mental disorder."

"It is therefore, a recoverable disease, which, in all the cases, does not fall within the definition of 'mental disorder,'" the judges' verdict said.

Friday's ruling claimed to be based upon two dictionary definitions of the word "schizophrenia" and a 1988 judgement by the Supreme Court of India.

The American Psychological Association website describes schizophrenia as: "a serious mental illness characterized by incoherent or illogical thoughts, bizarre behavior and speech, and delusions or hallucinations, such as hearing voices," attributing its definition to the Encyclopedia of Psychology.

The ruling has cleared the way for the execution of 50-year-old Imdad Ali, a paranoid schizophrenic who was sentenced to death for the murder of a cleric in 2001. The man was scheduled to be hanged on September 20, but the Supreme Court delayed the execution on medical grounds.

Ali's condition was certified in 2012 by government psychiatrist Tahir Feroze, who said the convict suffered from delusions that he controlled the world and heard voices in his head that commanded him.

However, Ali's lawyer, Sarah Belal, said the evidence had never been presented in court before 2016. Judges did not take latest medical records and the psychiatrist's affidavit into consideration for the verdict on Friday. She also said he was unfit to be executed because he couldn't understand his crime.

Hanging him would also violate Pakistan's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Wife to turn to victim's family for clemency

"It is outrageous for Pakistan's Supreme Court to claim that schizophrenia is not a mental illness, and flies in the face of accepted medical knowledge, including Pakistan's own medical laws," Maya Foa, director of the Britain-based human rights group Reprieve told Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, Ali's wife has said she will ask forgiveness from the victim's family as a last resort. Under Islamic law, the move could help avert her husband's execution.

Pakistan lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in 2014, after a terror attack on a school in Peshawar.  More than 400 out of 8,000 death row prisoners have been executed since then.

Following Friday's judgement, Ali could be hanged as early as Wednesday.

Watch video 01:48

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mg/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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