A man was given a last-minute stay of his execution in Pakistan today, not over concerns that the country is running "a conveyor belt of executions"—though that is a real criticism—but because Abdul Basit is unable to stand on the gallows. Basit, 43, acquired tubercular meningitis in prison and became paralyzed from the waist down after his conviction for killing the uncle of a woman with whom he was in a relationship, reports the Los Angeles Times; he says he's innocent. Prison rules only allow execution by "long-drop" hanging, and the length of rope used must be measured according to the inmate's height while standing to ensure an instant death, leading to concerns that Basit would be decapitated or face prolonged strangulation, reports the BBC. The stay came just an hour before his hanging was scheduled at dawn.
It isn't clear if authorities will go ahead with the execution, but "he is still alive," Basit's sister says. "We have been told that he could not be executed on technical grounds. But why don't they stop it on humanitarian grounds?" His mother adds Basit "was trapped in this murder" and has become "a skeleton" with bedsores. "He is already half dead. I do not know why they want to kill him further," she says. Pakistan has hanged approximately a person a day—or 239 people—since lifting a moratorium on capital punishment in December, notes the BBC. That move was supposed to be a counterterrorism measure, but activists say many of those executed had no links to terrorism, were abused in custody, and were robbed of fair trials. Pakistan has another 8,000 death row inmates, the most of any country. (This man’s execution last month sparked an uproar.)