A man has been executed Thursday in India in connection with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in which nearly 260 people were killed, Xinhua reported. Yakub Memon was executed, after the India's Supreme Court rejected his last-minute plea to stop his hanging in an unprecedented pre-dawn hearing.
Xinhua says Memon was hanged on his 54th birthday at a jail in the western Indian state of Maharashtra's city of Nagpur around 7 a.m. local time and was pronounced dead by a government doctor, barely two hours after the apex court rejected his last-minute plea to stay his hanging, an official said.
His lawyers and activists had moved the Supreme Court late Wednesday night, minutes after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee turned down his second clemency petition. They woke up the Chief Justice of India who then asked a three-judge bench to hear his last-minute appeal around 3 a.m. local time.
The lawyers told the court that Memon's hanging should be stayed for two weeks, citing rules that a death row prisoner can't be executed for 14 days after his mercy plea is rejected by the president. But the three-judge bench, which had rejected his plea Wednesday, again turned down Memon's petition.
The court accepted the government lawyer's argument that Memon had enough time to appeal against the president's decision, when he had last year rejected his first mercy plea, which was filed by one of his brothers on his behalf.
"Staying of Memon's death warrant, issued by a lower court on April 30, would be travesty of justice," the court said, while rejecting his appeal around 5 a.m. local time after a two-hour hearing, paving the way for his hanging as scheduled.
Memon's lawyer Annad Grover termed the court's decision "a tragic mistake". "The authorities were hell bent on executing him without giving him the right to challenge the rejection of his mercy petition by the president as right to life of a condemned prisoner lasts till his last breath," he told the media.
Memon was sentenced to death for financing and arranging logistics for the 1993 deadly terror attacks across several locations in Mumbai. The Stock Exchange, the offices of national carrier Air India and a luxury hotel were among about a dozen targets of the blasts.
Memon, a chartered accountant, had left the country along with his wife just before the blasts. He came back a year later amid conflicting reports on whether he had been arrested or had surrendered to the Indian intelligence agencies. Investigators have denied that he was offered a secret plea bargain.
However, his brother Tiger Memon and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who masterminded the blasts, are on the run since the terror strikes which were carried out allegedly to avenge the killing of Muslims in riots a few months earlier.
India rarely executes prisoners on death row. Memon is the third to be convicted in the past four years, the others being Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab in 2013 for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and Kashmiri fruit-seller Afzal Guru in 2014 for his role in 2001 Indian Parliament attacks.
Memon's case has divided opinion in India. Several politicians and members of civil society had earlier appealed to the president, urging him to "spare him (Memon) from the noose of the death for a crime that was masterminded by someone else to communally divide India".