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PHC releases 70 convicts sentenced to death by military courts

by Akhtar Amin 

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has overturned the death sentence of around 70 people convicted by the military courts on terrorism charges and declared that all these are cases of no evidence and based on malice of facts and law.

In the 173-page judgment authored by PHC Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, the high court directed the government and law-enforcement agencies to set free all the convicts from internment centres if not required in any other case. The second judge in the bench was Justice Lal Jan Khattak.

A perusal of the record produced in the high court showed that around 70 convicts were awarded death sentence for being active members of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from Swat, South Waziristan and North Waziristan.

As per the record of the military courts mentioned in the judgment, the convicts were awarded death sentence on the basis of their confessional statements before the magistrate for carrying out attacks on the security forces, police, civilians and imambargahs (places of worship for Shias) and . Many also confessed participating in attacks in Afghanistan. All these attacks caused the killing of personnel of the security forces and the police as well as civilians.

In a revision petition, Abdur Rashid claimed that his two convicted sons Muhammad Haleem and Fazal Haleem from Swat district had been arrested by the Rangers in Karachi some four years ago and then shifted to an internment centre in Swat. He said he later came to know that they had been awarded death sentence.

As per the record of the case though, they had joined TTP in 2005, received war bounty, motivated locals to join the TTP, delivered hate-based speeches and attacked the law- enforcing agencies personnel causing casualties.

In a revision petition, MstHameeda claimed that her son Aftabuddin, surrendered to the security forces in 2010 in Swat and later his family came to know that he had been awarded death sentence by a military court for being active member of TTP Swat and for allegedly abducting and slaughtering five police constables on October 25, 2007.

Another convict Shabbir Ahmad was awarded death sentence for being an active member of TTP South Waziristan he along with Taliban Commander Wali twice attacked security forces, killing four soldiers and abducting seven others and then slaughtering them.

In another revision petition, Fazam Nabi claimed that his brother Fazal Muhammad had been taken by the Military Intelligence into custody in December 2012 and he came to know recently that he was awarded death sentence by the military court.

According to the record, convict Fazal Mohammad joined the TTP Tariq Geedar group in 2007 and also took part in the Afghan Jihad. In 2008, he participated in an attack on security forces post at Kohat Tunnel and provided ammunition to terrorists for carrying out attacks on forces.

In its detailed judgment, the court stated that on merit each and every case individually was argued by the private counsels of the convicts while the record was also discussed.

“It is observed from the record so produced that they have erased each and every date, the names of the prosecution’s witnesses, their designations and many other things. On the direction of this court, the record was made available to the learned counsels for the convicts/petitioners, but for a very short time and they were permitted to take their own notes and that too with a pencil,” the court stated.

About the confessional statements on the basis of which convictions had been awarded, the court observed that the confessional statements are discouraged during trials recorded after the accused remained in police custody even for six days. It said that the extra-judicial confession could be taken as collaborative of the charge if it in the first instance, ranged true and then found support from other evidence of unimpeachable character, which is totally missing in all these cases.

It said that since long it has been a practice that the courts generally abstain from basing conviction solely on confession and have always sought for some reliable collaborative evidence regarding materials particulars in the confessional statements. However, it said in the instant cases the confessional statements are belated and retracted in time periods ranging from six months to eight years.

It said the confessional statements of almost all the convicts are recorded in one and the same handwriting. It said that no right of defence for fair trial had been given to the convicts to hire a private lawyer for their defence in the trial, which is their right under Article 10-A of Constitution.

It said that in certain cases there are FIRs on record in which there are a number of accused by name and according to the petitioners/convicts the other accused were treated under the normal law and acquitted by the courts.

The court ruled that all the cases, in view of the facts and figures, are cases of no evidence if the alleged confessional statements are subtracted or pulled out of the entire proceedings.The News

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