At 6 am, jail staff found him awake, and waiting

FP

A veil of secrecy shrouded the execution of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru at Tihar Jail this morning, 11 years after he was first brought to the prison.

This was the first execution in Tihar since January 1989 when Kehar Singh and Satwant Singh were hanged for their roles in the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Afzal had been kept in isolation in a high-security cell about 16x12 feet in size in Jail No. 3, barely 20 yards from the gallows.

Vimla Mehra, Director General of Prisons, said Afzal seemed "happy and cheerful" and "was talking to officials present there" before he was hanged at 8 am.

A jail official said Afzal was informed about the hanging on Friday evening. "He was clearly surprised, somewhat taken aback. Perhaps he had not expected this, considering the long period his mercy petition was kept pending," the official said.

Afzal was weighed for the first time on Thursday morning. This was done to check if the rope brought specially from Buxar, Bihar, was strong enough to take his weight during the hanging, the official said. He was weighed a second time on Friday.

"His medical examination was usually conducted once every week. Perhaps this was the reason why he did not think this was irregular," the official said.

Since Friday morning, other high security prisoners lodged around Afzal's cell were removed, and ongoing construction work at the prison was also stopped.

A preliminary physical and psychological evaluation of Afzal was conducted late Friday evening after the decision of his execution was communicated to him. A final assessment was done on Saturday morning.

"His vital parameters like blood pressure and pulse rate were normal. His psychiatric evaluation was also normal, there were no signs of anxiety. He was smiling and talking. It seemed like he had accepted his fate," the official said.

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