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Indian spy dies after attack in Pakistan jail

A portrait of Sarabjit Singh at Chabhal near Bhikiwind, Punjab state, on August 24, 2005
A portrait of Sarabjit Singh at Chabhal near Bhikiwind, Punjab state, dated August 24, 2005. Sentenced to death in Pakistan on charges of spying, the Indian national has died of his injuries after being attacked last week by fellow inmates, his lawyer say

An Indian national on death row in Pakistan, who was sentenced 16 years ago for espionage, has died of his injuries after being attacked last week by fellow inmates, his lawyer said Thursday.

Sarabjit Singh, who was convicted over deadly bombings in 1990, died at 1:00 am local time (2000 GMT Wednesday) after lying in a coma for the last five days, a senior doctor at Jinnah hospital in the eastern city of Lahore told AFP.

Singh's lawyer Owais Sheikh confirmed the 49-year-old's death and said his body had been moved to the hospital mortuary. The doctor said arrangements were under way for an autopsy.

Singh suffered multiple serious injuries when six prisoners attacked him on April 26 at Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail, hitting him on the head with bricks and fracturing his skull.

"His condition was more than critical and he had (little) chance of survival," Sheikh said.

The lawyer has said his client received threats following the execution of a Kashmiri separatist in India. Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi on February 9 for his part in an Islamist attack on India's parliament in 2001.

Indian soldiers check the passports of family members of Sarabjit Singh, at the Indo-Pakistan Wagah Border, May 1, 2013
Indian Border Security Force soldiers check the passports of family members of Sarabjit Singh, at the Indo-Pakistan Wagah Border Post on May 1, 2013.

Singh was convicted for his alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Pakistan's Punjab province that killed 14 people in 1990. His mercy petitions were rejected by the courts and former president Pervez Musharraf.

His family insisted he is merely a farmer who became a victim of mistaken identity after inadvertently straying across the border while drunk.

Four members of Singh's family -- his wife, two daughters and his sister -- who travelled to Lahore on Tuesday have since returned to India, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI).

PTI cited authorities as saying that the family had asked for Singh to be cremated with full state honours, and that the government would meet on Thursday to consider the request.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the attack on Singh as a "dastardly act" and called on the government to conduct a thorough inquiry into the matter and punish those found guilty.

Pakistani police escort the family of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian held in a Pakistani prison, at the Wagah Border, May 1
Pakistani police escort family members of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national held in a Pakistani prison, at the Pakistan-India Wagah Border Post on May 1, 2013.

"The authorities have obviously failed to do their elementary duty" of providing him safety and security, the commission said in a statement.

A senior official in Delhi said earlier this week that diplomats from the high commission in Islamabad were not allowed to visit Singh in hospital, and had also complained about a lack of information on his condition.

The Pakistan foreign ministry however insisted Indian diplomats in Lahore were given access to Singh on two occasions.

The attack made front-page news in Indian newspapers, with Indian television stations running frequent updates on his condition and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing it as a "very sad incident".

Pakistan last year released an Indian man who had served three decades in a Pakistani jail on espionage charges.

Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India have fought three wars since the division of the subcontinent in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed by both.

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