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Indian court commutes death sentence of Sikh rebel

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NEW DELHI, Mar 31 (AP) - India's top court on Monday commuted the death sentence of a Sikh separatist convicted in a 1993 bombing to life in prison.
Defense attorney K.T.S. Tulsi said the Supreme Court ruled that a delay of eight years by the government in deciding Devinderpal Singh Bhullar's petition for mercy amounted to cruelty. Also, he was suffering from mental illness, it said.
Bhullar was convicted of triggering a bomb blast in New Delhi in 1993 that killed nine people. A violent campaign by Sikh separatists for an independent homeland in the northern Punjab region ended in the 1990s.
In January, the Supreme Court ruled that an unexplained or unreasonable delay by the government in deciding mercy petitions was dehumanizing to death row convicts. It then reduced the death sentences of 15 other prisoners, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Last week, the Indian government told the top court that it had no problem with Bhullar being spared the death sentence.
Amnesty International welcomed the top court's ruling.
"Authorities should use the momentum generated by these decisions to establish a moratorium on executions and move toward abolishing the death penalty altogether," Shashikumar Velath, a director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement.

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