Pakistan president calls Guru hanging 'abuse of process'

MUZAFFARABAD (AFP) - Pakistan's president on Wednesday paid tribute to a Kashmiri separatist executed in India for plotting to attack the Indian parliament and called his hanging "abuse of judicial process".

Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi on February 9 for his part in a deadly Islamist attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, sparking more than a week of protests in the disputed Himalayan territory.

The hanging drove up tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours and President Asif Ali Zardari's remarks to the Kashmir assembly in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistan-administered portion, are likely to inflame tempers in India.

Pakistan and India each administer part of Kashmir but claim the whole territory and have fought two of their three wars over it.

Mr Zardari said "force and oppression" would not silence calls for self-determination in Kashmir, where a separatist conflict has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives over the last 20 years.

"The hanging of Afzal Guru through abuse of judicial process has further angered the Kashmiris," he said in comments published by the official APP news wire.

He praised Guru by quoting a verse written by the Urdu language poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

"The dignity and esteem with which a person heads towards the place of execution is immortal. On contrary, the life is but a transitory phase," he said.

Guru was convicted of conspiring with Islamist militants who raided the Indian parliament in 2001, killing 10 people and bringing nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

The one-time fruit merchant and medical college dropout had insisted he was innocent and that he was denied a proper legal defence. Protesters have accused police of framing him.

Guru's execution was mired in further controversy after his family said they learned about his death from television.

There were warnings the hanging could lead to more violence and last month militants disguised as cricketers killed five paramilitary police in an ambush in the main city of Indian Kashmir, the area's deadliest attack for nearly five years.