Pakistan Stays Shafqat Hussain Execution Amid Age, Torture Questions

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The imminent execution of a Pakistani man convicted of murder and kidnapping when he was 14 has been postponed for 72 hours, the government announced on Thursday, following an international outcry over the case.

"A question was being raised about Pakistan's justice system," Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said in parliament, without elaborating on what that was.

The delay was issued just hours before Shafqat Hussain, whose lawyers say was tortured by police into confessing, was set to be hanged.

Khan added there would be an inquiry to determine Hussain's age, following claims that he wasn't actually a juvenile when convicted.

Hussain was originally convicted of murder and kidnapping for ransom in 2004. Another court then struck off the murder charge but Hussain remained on death row because kidnapping for ransom is punishable by death under the country's anti-terror laws.

Subsequent appeals were all rejected. After the recent massacre in a Peshawar school, the government lifted a years-long moratorium on executions triggering the eventual execution of more than 8,000 death row convicts.

Hussain’s lawyers said they were skeptical that the government would discover anything new over the next few days.

“So the government will do an inquiry in 72 hours which they haven’t done in two months?” said Shahab Siddiqui of the Justice Project Pakistan, which is defending Hussain. “Nobody has contacted us, the family, or Shafqat so far. How can the inquiry be done? A medical exam? A paper trail?”

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M. Alex Johnson of NBC News contributed to this report.

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