- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

CALCUTTA, India (Agence France-Presse) — A convicted rapist and murderer became the first man to be executed in India in more than a decade when he was hanged at a jail here early today as human rights activists protested outside.

Apartment guard Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 42, was executed at 4:30 a.m., a jail official told reporters outside the prison.

He had been sentenced to death in 1991 for the rape and murder of a teenage schoolgirl the previous year.

Hundreds of people, including human rights activists, gathered during the night outside the Calcutta prison to hold a vigil and protest the execution as about 200 policemen stood guard.

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

Human rights activists also held candlelight vigils in a number of other centers, including the southern city of Bangalore, to mark their opposition to capital punishment.

India’s Supreme Court authorizes executions only rarely and they are regularly delayed indefinitely or commuted by the president.

The government is also guarded about disclosing its death penalty records.

Eighty-three-year-old hangman Nata Mallick, who was tasked with Chatterjee’s execution, has said he hanged two convicted killers in 1991.

Aside from that, the last known executions were in January 1989 — the hangings of Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, bodyguards convicted of assassinating Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Chatterjee was involved in lengthy legal appeals since his sentencing. His last appeal for a presidential pardon was dismissed by President Abdul Kalam last week.

His lawyers had argued that his conviction for the 1990 rape and murder of 16-year-old schoolgirl Hetal Parekh was based on circumstantial evidence and that police never carried out crucial DNA testing of evidence.

They also said his 13 years on death row and the “inordinate delay” in his execution had been punishment enough and the death sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment.

Chatterjee’s distraught family, from Chatna village about 150 miles west of Calcutta, had begged for his life and threatened to commit suicide if the execution wasn’t canceled.

West Bengal Law Minister Nisith Adhikari said yesterday that Chatterjee spent the day before his hanging singing hymns, reading scriptures and worshipping a framed portrait of Kali, the goddess of power, inside his cell.


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