India carries out first execution in nearly a decade

CALCUTTA: A man convicted of raping and killing a schoolgirl was hanged yesterday in India's first execution in nearly a decade, to the dismay of campaigners against the death penalty. 

Apartment guard Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 42, was executed in this eastern city, a jail official told reporters outside the prison. 

Chatterjee had been sentenced to death in 1991 for the rape and murder the previous year of a teenage schoolgirl who was a tenant in his building.  

Lawyers exhausted all appeals and President Abdul Kalam refused clemency. 

Hundreds of people gathered outside the prison for an all-night vigil against the execution.  

About 200 policemen watched over the crowd. 

Some of the protesters carried banners which read “Stop capital punishment” and “Abolish the death penalty.” 

“It is inhumane to hang anyone in a civilised society. The government has done an injustice to Dhananjoy by hanging him,” said protester Sujata Bakdra, representative of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights. 

Human rights groups held candlelight processions in a number of other Indian cities. 

Chatterjee's lawyers had argued his conviction for the rape and murder of 16-year-old schoolgirl Hetal Parekh was based on circumstantial evidence and that police never carried out crucial DNA testing. 

They also said his 13 years on death row and the “inordinate delay” in his execution had been punishment enough. 

But the Bengali-language daily Pratidin reported that Chatterjee, who had pleaded not guilty during his trial, confessed to the killing on the eve of his execution. 

He told the jail staff guarding his cell that he had strangled his victim to avenge an insult, the report said, quoting a police officer. –AFP  

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