Russia seeks man on death row for Pervez murder bid

Islamabad, October 1:

Russian authorities are seeking access to a man with a Russian passport who is facing execution for an attempt to assassinate Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf, officials said today. The man, identified on his passport as Akhlas Ahmed, was one of five people sentenced to death in August after being convicted in the 2003 plot. They were arrested after suicide bombers tried to ram two explosives-laden vehicles into Musharraf’s motorcade, leaving him unharmed but killing 16 people.

Russian diplomats requested access to the convict after learning from media reports that he had a Russian passport, said Oleg Dzhurayev, first secretary at the Russian Embassy in Islamabad. He said Pakistan had not informed Russia that one of the suspects was claiming Russian citizenship. If the convict is Russian, “we will not leave him on his own,” he said. Dzhurayev said Russian authorities want to determine whether the imprisoned man is the rightful holder of the passport, which he said could possibly have been stolen, lost or forged.

“We have not been shown this man or his passport,” he told The Associated Press. Ahmed’s mother is Russian and lives in the southern Russian city of Volgogred. She is divorced from Ahmed’s Pakistani father, Dzhurayev said. He said she told Russian officials she had not heard from Ahmed since he left Russia in 2001, and that she did not know where he went. Pakistani authorities have received the Russian request for consular access to Ahmed and are trying to determine whether he has Russian citizenship, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tawleem Aslam said. The army officer would not say what role Ahmed was convicted of playing in the assassination plot. He said Ahmed had been given the opportunity to defend himself during the military trial, which was closed to the media and the public and whose location was never publicly announced. Ahmed has the right to appeal his conviction.

The December 25, 2003, attack on a road in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, came 11 days after another alleged attempt to kill Musharraf by blowing up his motorcade in the same city.