Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham protest over Balwant Singh Rajoana execution decision

About 1,000 people have taken part in a demonstration in Birmingham in protest at a scheduled execution in India.

Balwant Singh Rajoana was due to be hanged for his part in the 1995 murder of Punjab's Chief Minister Beant Singh.

The execution has since been stayed while the country's president considers an appeal by the Punjab government.

The protest by Sikhs in Birmingham saw 200 people march to the Indian Consulate from Handsworth before being joined by about 800 other people.

One of the protesters, Kirat Raj Singh, said they had aimed to put pressure on the UK and Indian governments to stop the execution.

Fellow protestor Gurminderpal Samra said that despite the stay of execution, many Sikhs would not be satisfied until Rajoana was released.

He said: "There's nothing stopping them from executing him in future. He hasn't killed anyone and he's done 17 years in prison already.

"Others have committed worse crimes, had their sentences reduced and been out in less time.

"We're calling for his full release. That way we know justice has been done."

Appeal for clemency

On Tuesday, a court in Chandigarh had set a date for Rajoana's execution, prompting protests in many Sikh communities.

Rajoana, who was sentenced in 2007, did not appeal against the original court decision.

He was convicted of acting as a back-up suicide bomber in the assassination of Beant Singh, who was killed, along with 17 others, by Dilawar Singh on 31 August 1995.

The Punjab state government, which originally prosecuted Rajoana, had appealed to President Pratibha Patil for clemency.

By law, only the country's president or the supreme court can stop an execution.

If carried out, the execution would be the first in the country since 2004.

The BBC's India correspondent Sanjoy Majumder said it was rare for executions to actually take place.

He said: "There are a number of people sitting on death rows in various prisons across India.

"In India we are seeing a wave of protests, not just from Sikhs, but also opposition parties, human rights groups and ironically the government in Punjab itself."

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