- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of a mentally ill prisoner whose hanging was to take place later this week, a lawyer said.

The case of 50-year-old Imdad Ali, convicted of murdering a religious scholar in 2001, has drawn criticism from rights groups. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal last week, arguing his disease does not qualify as a mental disorder but his wife, Safia Bano, later filed a petition to spare his life.

Her lawyer, Iqbal Gilani, said a three-judge panel stayed Ali’s hanging for two weeks to give time to hear the petition. He said the petition will be heard in the second week of November.

Sara Bilal, director of the Justice Project rights group said the development will positively affect many prisoners on death row in Pakistan.

Gilani, the lawyer, hoped the court will permanently revoke the sentence and spare Ali.

“We have a strong case and hope for justice,” said Gilani, adding that under international laws and also Pakistan’s legal system, a “mentally ill prisoner should be referred for medical treatment.”

Bano expressed her delight after hearing of Monday’s development.

“It gives us a ray of hope, I thank God and pray that my husband’s life be spared,” she said. Bano has also appealed to President Mamnoon Hussain to spare her husband’s life.

Pakistan halted executions between 2008 and 2014 due to pressure from international human rights groups but lifted the moratorium following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in December 2014 that killed 150 people, nearly all of them children.

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