India Red Fort: Court stays attacker's death penalty

Pakistani man Mohammad Ashfaq Arif is escorted by Indian policemen as he walks out of court in Delhi on 31 October 2005 Mohammad Arif was described as the mastermind of the Red Fort attack

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India's Supreme Court has put on hold the death sentence of Mohammad Arif, a Pakistani man convicted of attacking Delhi's Red Fort in December 2000.

The judges accepted his lawyer's argument that there had been a long delay in deciding his case.

Arif, also known as Ashfaq Arif, was a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant who was convicted in 2005. The Supreme Court confirmed his sentence in 2011.

Three people died in the attack on the 17th Century fort, an Indian landmark.

Arif's is the latest in a series of high-profile cases in which the Supreme Court has commuted death sentences because those facing execution have spent so long on death row.

In February, the court commuted the death sentences of three men convicted of plotting the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

And in January, the court had commuted the sentences of 15 death row prisoners to life in jail on the grounds of delay.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered that a larger "constitution" bench be set up to decide Arif's case.

His lawyer had argued in the court that hanging Arif would be a violation of the constitution since he had already spent more than 13 years in jail.

Arif was arrested along with his wife, Rehmana Yousuf Farooqui, four days after the Red Fort attack and found guilty of murder, criminal conspiracy and waging war against India.

The trial court convicted him and six others in October 2005. He was sentenced to death, while the others received jail terms of varying lengths.

In September 2007, the high court upheld his conviction, but ordered the release of the others for lack of evidence. The Supreme Court confirmed his death penalty in 2011.

India rarely carries out executions, which are often delayed indefinitely or commuted by the president.

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