Amnesty welcomes reprieve for Balwant Singh

London: Amnesty International today welcomed the final hour reprieve for Babbar Khalsa terrorist Balwant Singh Rajoana but it wants India to commute all capital sentences.

"Balwant Singh's reprieve is a welcome decision by the Indian government. His execution would have been the first in India in eight years and would have set back the country's alignment with the global trend away from the death penalty," Bikramjeet Batra, Amnesty International's policy adviser, said.

"This should be a first step by the Indian authorities to real progress away from this inhuman act: they need to establish an official moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences and ultimately abolish the death penalty for all crimes," he added.

Rajoana, 44, was scheduled to be hanged on March 31 in Punjab, but his execution has been stayed, pending an appeal by the Punjab state government to the Indian President. The Indian government intervened in view of the matter taking a political turn and wide-spread protests against the hanging all over the state. Punjab also witnessed a state-wide Bandh yesterday against Rajoana's hanging on Saturday.

Rajoana was found guilty in 2007 of the assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995.

No executions have been carried out in India since 2004. Two thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception.

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, it said in a statement.