Shinde defends secrecy in Afzal Guru's hanging

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 11, 2013 14:30 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Monday defended the secrecy shrouding the execution of Afzal Guru and said his family was informed two days before the hanging through speed post. The post reached the family Monday, two days after Afzal Guru was hanged.

Shinde, who was carrying proof of the speed post being sent to Afzal Guru's family, told reporters that the hanging was not a "political decision" and the authorities acted according to rules.

He also sought to dismiss Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's suggestion that the execution of Afzal Guru was selective, saying that convicts in assassination cases of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab chief minister Beant Singh were different.

"These cases are still under consideration before the judiciary. Hence, they are different," Shinde said.

He was asked a volley of questions at his monthly news conference about why the government did not ensure that Afzal Guru's family knew about his execution.

Afzal Guru was hanged Feb 9 in Tihar Jail for his role in the 2001 terrorist attack on parliament.

The minister said there was a need to maintain secrecy as things get leaked out and indicated that if there was lack of confidentiality, Afzal Guru's execution may not have taken place.

"The work is not completed (then). Hence, secrecy is required. If everything (is) open, the country will not run," Shinde said.

Shinde said he had called Abdullah Feb 8 and informed him about Afzal Guru's hanging.

"Afzal Guru's family was informed and the speed post was sent on the night of Feb 7. He was hanged Feb 9," Shinde told reporters here.

"We acted according to the rules," Shinde said and added that speed post was sent by the jail officials.

Senior postal officials in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital, said the speed post was received Saturday evening - Afzal Guru was executed at 8 a.m. Saturday - but delivered Monday as Sunday was a holiday.

Abdullah had told TV channels Sunday that the government and the judiciary will have to answer for Afzal Guru's execution.

He had also referred to cases of convicts in the assassination cases of Beant Singh and Rajiv Gandhi and said if targeting parliament was an attack on symbol of democracy, so was the attack on a chief minister and a former prime minister.

Answering queries, Shinde said he had cleared all mercy petitions sent to him by President Pranab Mukherjee.

"All that came to me have been cleared," he said.

To a question about some people wanting to pray in Tihar Jail where Afzal Guru was buried, Shinde said it could be considered.

Asked if Afzal Guru was a surrendered militant, Shinde said he did not go into such details while looking at his file.

"I was concerned with evidence and what happened in the Supreme Court and the high court. That was my job," he said.

Asked about possible retaliation from terror outfits against Afzal Guru's killing, he said the government had to assess every possibility.

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